Second suspect denies N$1,2m fraudBy: WERNER MENGES
A SWAKOPMUND businessman, charged with committing fraud to the tune of over N$1,2 million by receiving 22 cheque payments that he was not entitled to, heard in the High Court in Windhoek yesterday that his trial will have to be rescheduled in the wake of a guilty plea by his co-accused last week.
Businessman Seth Jacobus Louw (58) and a former employee of bookkeeping company Windhoek Mechanised Accounting Services, Sylvia van Wyk (48), were set to go on trial together in the High Court at the beginning of last week.
Appearing before Judge Collins Parker, their case was split into two separate trials when Van Wyk pleaded guilty to 22 counts of fraud, which Louw denied, on Tuesday last week.
With Van Wyk having in the meantime testified before Judge Parker in mitigation of the sentence that the Judge will be imposing at the end of her trial, Louw returned to court yesterday for another appearance before Judge Parker.
On this occasion, though, Louw’s defence lawyer, Christie Mostert, told Judge Parker that it would be “awkward” if Louw’s trial was to proceed before him, as he has already heard evidence being given by Van Wyk and would have to make a credibility finding about her as a witness.
In the interest of justice and fairness it would probably be better if Louw was tried before another Judge, Judge Parker commented after hearing Mostert’s remarks.
Louw now has to attend another pre-trial hearing in the High Court on April 9 so that a new starting date for his trial can be set.
He and Van Wyk were accused of defrauding her former employer, Windhoek Mechanised Accounting Services, and two of that firm’s clients, Nutrifood and Independence Caterers, of more than N$1,23 million during a 19-month period from October 2002 to late in May 2004.
The prosecution is charging that the alleged fraud was committed on 22 occasions between October 28 2002 and May 28 2004. (It was erroneously reported in The Namibian on Friday last week that the last date was October 28 2003.)
It is alleged that the fraud was carried out when cheques of Nutrifood and Independence Caterers were made out by Van Wyk and, after they had been signed by the responsible persons in the two companies, were paid into a bank account belonging to Louw.
In her testimony after she had pleaded guilty to all of the 22 charges last week, Van Wyk claimed the fraud had been Louw’s idea. She told the court that they had shared the money paid into Louw’s account equally between the two of them.
Louw however denied the charges. In a plea explanation that was handed to the court, he claimed he was approached by Van Wyk with a proposal that they should form a business partnership “with regard to maize meal contracts that would be awarded to her”.
The deal was that he would provide starting capital of N$50 000 for the business and would then be a silent partner in the enterprise and would not be involved in the day to day running of the business, Louw stated.
Louw claimed that he was at all times under the impression “that the business was kosher”.
He stated that all payments that he received were recorded and that he has also paid personal income tax on it.
“I was totally unaware that ‘the business’ was fraudulent and I have made no misrepresentation to the complainants,” he stated.
Van Wyk has to return to the High Court on Friday for further evidence to be heard before her sentencing.
She and Louw are both free on bail.
State advocate Ed Marondedze is prosecuting.