Disciplinary action will be taken against Lesotho diplomats expelled from South Africa for illicit trade in duty-free alcohol, the government of the Kingdom of Lesotho said on Friday.

In a statement, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Relations expressed its disappointment and embarrassment that several Basotho serving at the Lesotho high commission in Pretoria and the Lesotho consulate in Johannesburg were declared unacceptable by South Africa.

The statement read “The diplomats and their families have been given 72 hours to depart South Africa and relinquish their diplomatic status.

“The South African government took this action under the terms of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961, due to the said diplomats failing to comply with the laws of the Republic of South Africa, specifically the illicit trade in duty-free alcohol”.

In January, there were media reports that Lesotho diplomats in South Africa had sold duty-free alcohol to make up for the shortages in their salaries.

In April, media reports surfaced that the SA Revenue Service (SARS) had uncovered a scam that foreign diplomats were buying large volumes of alcohol at duty-free retailers and selling it locally.

Diplomats from Rwanda, Lesotho, Ghana, Guinea, Malawi and Burundi were implicated in the tax-dodging scam.

According to South African media coverage citing a widely circulated report from the SA Department of International Relations and Co-operation (Dirco), 12 people were accused of abusing their diplomatic privileges.