‘Zorro’ gets bail in robbery caseBy: WERNER MENGES
AFTER two months in police custody on a robbery charge, businessman Josia ‘Zorro’ Muhongo was granted bail of N$30 000 yesterday.
In his opinion, said Magistrate Jermaine Muchali when he delivered his ruling on a bail application by Muhongo in the Windhoek Magistrate’s Court, the prosecution’s case against Muhongo appears to be weak at this stage of the investigation of the case.
If the evidence available to the prosecution remains the same as now when the matter goes to trial, there is a strong possibility that Muhongo would be acquitted, Magistrate Muchali said.
Muhongo and four co-accused – three of whom were arrested only last week – are charged with counts of robbery and impersonating a police officer in connection with an incident in which N$2,2 million was allegedly robbed from a foreign businessman in Klein Windhoek on May 16.
Muhongo told the magistrate during his bail hearing that he and the complainant in the case, Lebanese businessman Vicken Kaprelian, are business partners, and that they were at the house in Klein Windhoek so that Kaprelian could have a meeting with the second accused in the case, Michael Shidiwe, about the possible sale of an oil exploration licence by Shidiwe.
Muhongo claimed that while they were at the house three men stormed in, announcing that they were police officers who were investigating illegal activities.
The money which Kaprelian had with him was taken by the police officers when they left the house.
Muhongo told the magistrate he had nothing to do with the alleged robbery.
In his ruling, Magistrate Muchali said in his opinion the prosecution did not show that Muhongo is likely to abscond if he is granted bail, or that he would interfere with State witnesses, or that it would be against the interests of justice if he is released on bail.
The magistrate said it was not disputed that the charges which Muhongo is facing are serious. However, he added, the seriousness of charges must be linked to the strength of the case against an accused person.
At this stage, the State’s case against Muhongo is weak, and the possibility that he would be convicted if he is tried on the same evidence now available to the prosecution is very slim, the magistrate said.
Muhongo was granted bail in an amount of N$30 000 on condition that he surrenders all of his travelling documents to the police, that he may not apply for a new passport until his case has been finalised, that he may not leave the Windhoek district without the permission of the police officer investigating his case, that he has to report to the police each Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and that he may not interfere with the police’s investigation or with State witnesses, whether directly or indirectly.
Muhongo has to appear in court again on September 21.
His co-accused, two of whom are constables in the Namibian Police, are expected to launch a bail application today.
Muhongo was represented by defence lawyer Orben Sibeya. Public Prosecutor Taodago Gaweseb represented the State.
* It was incorrectly reported earlier that Muhongo had been represented by defence lawyer Charles Visser of the firm LorentzAngula Inc. with his first court appearance. In fact, he was represented by Willem Visser, of the firm Stern & Barnard.