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MBABANE - Three directors of a company trading as Laughing Waters Investments (PTY) Limited have been arrested for allegedly defrauding Letshego Financial Services money amounting to over E0.5 million.

They are Sifiso Nhleko of Moneni in Manzini, Sikhumbuzo Sihlongonyane of Mafutseni and Phetsile Treasure Nhleko. The company has been cited as the fourth accused in the charge sheet. Initially, Laughing Waters Investments (PTY) Limited was reportedly formed by four directors, inclusive of Mduduzi Vilane, who, however, resigned before his co-directors were arrested and charged with fraud. 

The trio is alleged to have misrepresented to Letshego Financial Services that Order number 83109, which was alleged to have been issued by Mkhandlweni Farmers Association to Laughing Waters Investments (PTY) Limited to be supplied with irrigation equipment, was an authentic, resulting in the financial institution granting the company a loan of E533 116. Phetsile was also charged with Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism (Prevention) Act of 2011, after she allegedly used part of the money to purchase a Toyota truck.

When the matter appeared for trial yesterday, the loan application signed by the four directors of the company was presented in as part of evidence.
The documents also had Vilane’s name and signatures though he resigned from the company. Vilane who was testifying against his former co-directors told the court that he had nothing to do with the fraud. He stated that he learnt about it after he had resigned from the company.
He claimed that he only participated in the formation of the company after he was approached by Sihlongonyane.

Vilane submitted that Sihlongonyane requested him to look for a tender and partner with him in the registration of the company so that they could get a loan from the financial institution. The ex-co-director stated that he agreed to look for the tender and further partnered with Sihlongonyane.
He mentioned that Sihlongonyane then informed him that they would be joined by another director before he introduced him to Phetsile Nhleko while at Letshego Office in Manzini. At the time, Vilane told the court that they were with Sifiso who confirmed the additional director before suggesting that they should open a bank account. He stated that after a few days all four of them proceeded to open the bank account.

“Sifiso said he would be represented by Sihlongonyane at the bank because he did not want his name to appear in the account. I was not happy about this and I decided to resign from the company. I, therefore, deny involvement in any business transaction as director of Laughing Waters Investments (PTY) Limited,” he submitted. He further told the court that he made it clear to the police that he was not involved in the dealings of the company.
“The name at the bottom of the loan application is mine but I do not know who appended the signature, which is similar to mine. I never signed in any loan application,” he submitted.

During cross-examination, Vilane’s former co-directors put it to him that he was directly involved in the company meetings and the loan applications. The former co-directors further put it to Vilane that he resigned after the loan application. They also put it to him that there was no way they could have forged his signature as a member. “You resigned because you got a job and you were no longer able to attend to the company business,” submitted the accused persons. However, Vilane maintained that he was never involved in any of the business transactions. He told the court that he felt uncomfortable when his former co-directors excluded him from the business transaction.

He stated that he was unhappy when informed that they would be joined by Phetsile. It was Vilane’s evidence that he was unhappy when he learnt that he was not involved in the withdrawals. “What withdrawals are you talking about? You said you left the company before it could make money? We put it to you that you left after we had applied for the loan,” the accused persons told Vilane.

They also referred Vilane to his evidence, where he stated that he informed the police that he was no longer involved in any dealings of the company. They asked Vilane to clarify as his evidence sounded as if he knew something about illicit acts committed by the directors of the company.
“Were you aware that there was ongoing fraud when you talked to the police officers?” the former co-directors asked Vilane. In response, Vilane stated that he was not aware of anything when approached by the police officers.