Lesotho court fines Canadian company

A Lesotho court this week fined a Canadian construction company, Acres International, $2,5-million for paying bribes on the country’s multibillion-dollar dam project.

The sentence is the first in a series of unprecedented trials against some of leading dam designers and builders.

Acres, based in Ontario, said it would appeal. If it loses, it faces being banned from bidding for future World Bank-funded projects.

Other corruption trials are planned against the United Kingdom-based Sir Alexander Gibb & Partners, now part of the United States group Jacobs, and the French consortium Spies Batignolles, which includes the British engineering group Balfour Beatty.

Acres was found guilty last month on two counts of corruption.
Chief Justice, Mahapela Lehohla, ruled that it had knowingly paid bribes of $433 680 to its agent, who passed about 60% of the money on to the secret Swiss bank account of the former chief executive of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project, Masupha Sole. He was sentenced in May to 18 years in prison for accepting $3-million in bribes in 10 years from more than half a dozen construction companies.

The Acres International sentence was welcomed by the Canadian campaign group Probe International.

“This sends a message that bribery does not pay,” Probe International executive director, Patricia Adams, said.

The $8-billion water project, the largest in Southern Africa, involves the building of five dams to supply water to South Africa and power to Lesotho.—(c) Guardian Newspapers 2002

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