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Tuesday, 4 June, 2002, 14:01 GMT 15:01 UK
Lesotho corporate bribe-taker jailed
Katse Dam
Dams exploit Lesotho's one natural resource: water
A former senior official in Lesotho found guilty of taking bribes from an international consortium of construction firms has been sentenced to 18 years in prison.

Masupha Sole, ex-chief executive of the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority, said he plans to appeal against the verdict.

Mr Sole was convicted last month on 13 counts of bribery linked to the controversial Lesotho Highlands Water Project.

The project, billed as the biggest construction and engineering scheme in Africa, is intended to generate electricity for Lesotho and supply water to South Africa.

Bribery crackdown

But it has run into opposition because of the disruption to local people and wildlife.

The international consortium is led by France's Spie Batignolles, and also includes the UK's Balfour Beatty.

The Lesotho Government is thought likely to pursue some of the companies involved.

The case could have an effect on the way multinationals run their operations in developing countries, where ethical standards have traditionally been downplayed.

Blacklist

If found guilty, the firms face being banned from bidding to take part in projects financed by the World Bank, which is providing much of the funding for the Lesotho Highlands Water scheme.

This would exclude them from a wide range of lucrative construction contracts in the developing world.

Over the past two years, 54 companies have been blacklisted from bidding on Bank-funded operations.

See also:

20 May 02 | Business
10 Dec 99 | From Our Own Correspondent
04 Apr 01 | UK Politics
15 May 99 | Africa
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