Delayed justice drags on in SSC/Avid caseBy: WERNER MENGES
THE trial of the seven people accused of fraud and other alleged crimes in connection with a botched investment of N$30 million by the Social Security Commission in early 2005 is still being delayed by a wait for a Supreme Court judgement on a constitutional point.
Heated arguments were made in the High Court in Windhoek yesterday after State advocate Ed Marondedze asked Judge Nate Ndauendapo to postpone the case against the seven accused once more while a Supreme Court judgement on the constitutionality of a section of the Criminal Procedure Act dealing with fraud charges is being awaited.
The case of the seven accused has been postponed repeatedly after they made their first appearance in the High Court in September 2008. Most of the events which led to the charges against them took place more than seven and a half years ago, in early 2005.
The current delay of their case is as a result of a Supreme Court judgement which has been awaited since arguments in that matter were heard on July 9 2010.
Defence lawyer Christie Mostert, who is representing four of the accused, told Judge Ndauendapo that his clients are considering an application to ask for their release from the case in terms of the Constitution’s requirement that a trial should take place within a reasonable time.
“The system is failing the accused persons at present,” Mostert charged.
Defence lawyer Sisa Namandje, representing Member of Parliament Paulus Kapia, who is the first accused in the case, asked Judge Ndauendapo to refuse a further postponement of the case and to instead strike the case from the court roll.
Another of the defence lawyers, Dirk Conradie, who is representing Nico Josea, remarked that his client is not prepared to wait forever for the case to be finalised.
Reminding the judge of the saying that justice delayed is justice denied, Richard Metcalfe, the defence lawyer of retired Brigadier General Mathias Shiweda, charged that it would not be fair to again postpone the case.
In response to the defence lawyers’ remarks Marondedze said the prosecution was ready to proceed with the trial without the Supreme Court’s judgement. He reminded Judge Ndauendapo that it was some of the accused, and not the prosecution, that decided to challenge the constitutionality of the section of the Criminal Procedure Act in the Supreme Court.
Judge Ndauendapo postponed the case to November 29. On a request from Mostert, he also directed the Registrar of the High Court and Supreme Court to enquire from the judges of the Supreme Court when their judgement will be delivered.
Kapia, Josea, Ralph Blaauw, Inez /Gâses, Shiweda and lawyers Otniel Podewiltz and Sharon Blaauw are all charged with a count of fraud, alternatively theft, and a charge of reckless or fraudulent conduct of business, which is a contravention of the Companies Act, in connection with an SSC investment of N$30 million that was placed with an asset management company, Avid Investment Corporation, and channelled to another asset management company, Namangol Investments, in January 2005.
The money was supposed to be repaid with interest after four months. When Avid was not able to repay the money the SSC went to the High Court in July 2005 to have the company liquidated.
Kapia, /Gâses, Podewiltz and Mrs Blaauw were directors of Avid, and also face six counts under the Companies Act in which they are accused of having failed to carry out their duties as directors, such as keeping proper records of the company’s business.
The seven are all further charged with having given false evidence at a Companies Act enquiry into the financial collapse of Avid that was conducted in the High Court in July and August 2005.
Podewiltz alone is charged with corruption for having allegedly received a payment from the late Lazarus Kandara, alleged founder of Avid, while Podewiltz was employed with the Ministry of Labour.
The State is alleging that of the N$30 million that the SSC transferred to Avid to be invested, N$29,5 million was transferred to Namangol Investments, which was owned and run by Josea.
Of this money, some N$14,9 million landed in Josea’s personal bank account in mid-March 2005, and he went on to deal with the money as if it was his own, it is also alleged.