Fraud, trafficking accused challenge detention

RELEASE BID … Lawyers Sisa Namandje (left) and Gilroy Kasper (back) confer with one of their clients, Toivo Herman, who claims to be unlawfully detained, in the Windhoek High Court yesterday. Photo: Werner Menges

An urgent application about the lawfulness of the detention of people arrested three weeks ago in connection with an alleged cryptocurrency investment scam that was operated from Namibia is scheduled to take place in the Windhoek High Court tomorrow.

The hearing of the urgent application was postponed by judge George Coleman yesterday, after lawyer Sylvia Kahengombe, who is representing several respondents in the matter, asked to be given more time to prepare her clients’ response to the legal action being taken against them.

Thirteen of the 14 people arrested in Windhoek three weeks ago on fraud, human trafficking and other charges are asking the court to declare that their detention is unlawful and inconsistent with the Constitution because they did not appear in court within 48 hours after their arrests, to order that they should be released from custody, and to order that they should return to the Windhoek Magistrate’s Court on a warning from the court for future appearances in their case.

In an affidavit filed at the High Court on Monday afternoon, one of the 13 accused, Toivo Herman, said he and his co-accused were all arrested on the evening of 3 October.

Herman, who said he worked as the human resources officer for the close corporation Raylon Investments, said he was arrested at his employer’s offices in Windhoek, where he and fellow employees were on a night shift.

He also said after handcuffs had been placed on his wrists, he saw members of the Namibian Police Special Reserve Force assaulting his Chinese colleagues, while demanding their passports from them.

Herman said they were held at offices of the Special Reserve Force during the morning of 4 October and then transported to Windhoek Correctional Facility, where they were booked in to be detained that afternoon.

During the next day, Herman said, a police officer informed him he would be charged formally, and the day after that, which was 6 October, he and his co-accused made their first appearance in the Windhoek Magistrate’s Court.

According to Herman, that was more than 48 hours after their arrests on the evening of 3 October, and was in violation of the Constitution’s stipulation that an arrested person should be brought before the nearest magistrate or judicial officer within 48 hours after being arrested.

Herman is alleging that the version of the police and prosecution that the arrests in his case were carried out on 4 or 5 October is misleading, and that attempts have been made to manipulate court processes and conceal the real facts about the arrests.

The charges against the 14 accused, who are alleged to have operated an international cryptocurrency investment scam in which Namibians were employed, include 98 counts of trafficking in persons, 98 charges of using the services of victims of trafficking, one count of fraud involving an amount of US$465 405 (about N$9 million) and charges of money laundering, racketeering and failing to pay tax.

The 14 accused in the matter are Chinese nationals Fan Jia (42), Guo Linzie (41), Zheng Haifeng (40), Li Zirian (36), Shi Zi Jun (33), Lin Shu Lin (35), Chen Wuyu (30), Neng Jun Wu (30), Wu Weiyang (22) and Chen You Yi (40), Cuban citizen Carlos Alejandro Batista Valdes (34), and Namibian citizens Tango Muulyau (34), Mdanda Mamelodi Domingo (30) and Toivo Herman (40).

The respondents cited in the urgent application include Namibian Police inspector general Joseph Shikongo, the commander of the police in the Khomas region, commissioner Willem Steenkamp, prosecutor general Martha Imalwa, and the divisional magistrate of the Windhoek Magistrate’s Court.

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