Three European companies were found guilty of fraud in a major development project in southern Africa by a Lesotho judiciary. The companies have been fined a total of US$5.6M.
Investigations of the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) contributed to the court’s decision which found a French, Italian and German company guilty of fraud and bribery. The companies were involved in the Lesotho Highlands water project, one of the biggest dam projects in the world and the largest construction project between two countries in Africa. The companies were suspected of having participated in the bribe payments in order to obtain contracts.
A French company pleaded guilty once confronted with findings by the court and was convicted of 16 counts of bribery and fined US$1.6M. The German company was found guilty of eight counts of bribery and was fined US$2M. The Italian company was also fined US$2M for ‘attempting to Defeat the Course of Justice’, according to a statement released by the OLAF.
A spokesman for the company said OLAF was not entitled to name the companies involved. The project involved building dams and an underground hydroelectric power plant between South Africa and land-locked Lesotho. The campaign which began in the early eighties was funded by the European Development Fund, European Investment Bank, the World Bank and the Government of Lesotho.