The High Court of Lesotho has wrapped a major portion of a corruption investigation involving the giant Lesotho Highlands Water Project, levying fines totaling US$5.6 million against three European companies.
The European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) issued a statement summing up its participation in the fraud cases, in which companies incorporated in France, Italy, and Germany were found guilty of bribery-related charges connected with contracts to build the water supply and hydroelectric complex, which carries water from Lesotho to South Africa.
The former Spie Batignolles, now Schneider Electric, pleaded guilty to 16 counts of bribery and was fined the equivalent of US$1.52 million. Italian construction company Impregilo was convicted of an alternative charge of attempting to defeat the course of justice and fined US$2 million. Lahmeyer of Germany was found guilty of eight bribery counts and fined US$2 million.
A non-European firm, Acres International of Canada, previously was convicted of bribery and fined US$2.2 million. Additionally, an official of the water project, Masupha Sole, was convicted of taking bribes from international firms, fined US$1.27 million, and sentenced to 15 years in prison.
�The court decisions mark the closure of the follow-up to the OLAF investigations into the Lesotho Highlands Water Project that had been co-funded by the EU and other international donors,� OLAF said
European Development Fund financing for the project totaled 61.2 million euros (US$78 million), while European Investment Bank funding totaled 112.5 million euros (US$156.2 million). Other donors such as the World Bank the the government of Lesotho also contributed funding.