Hatuikulipi opts to stay silent in bribery trial

DEFENCE CASE CLOSED … James Hatuikulipi and Sakaria Kokule have decided not to present evidence in their own defence in their trial on charges of bribery and defeating or obstructing the course of justice. Photo: Werner Menges

One of the key figures in the Fishrot fishing quotas fraud, corruption and racketeering case, James Hatuikulipi, has chosen not to testify in his own defence in a bribery trial.

Defence lawyers representing Hatuikulipi and co-accused Sakaria Kokule informed magistrate Kandiwapa Nembia in the Windhoek Magistrate’s Court yesterday that the two accused men have chosen to exercise their right to remain silent after the conclusion of the prosecution’s case in their trial.

They will not testify or call any witnesses to testify in their defence, the magistrate was told.

Defence lawyer Jermaine Muchali, who is representing Kokule, said this decision was made after “rigorous consultations” with his client.
Hatuikulipi’s defence lawyer in the trial, Gilroy Kasper, said Hatuikulipi chose not to testify in his own defence because a poor case was presented by the state and there is no evidence on which a reasonable court would convict him.

Hatuikulipi (48) and Kokule (51) are charged with counts of corruptly offering gratification to an officer of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), alternatively bribery or improperly influencing an ACC officer, and defeating or obstructing the course of justice.

The charges are based on allegations that they tried to bribe an ACC officer in January 2020 by offering him N$250 000 in an attempt to get him to hand evidence seized by the ACC to them. The evidence consisted of bank cards issued to Hatuikulipi and a co-accused in the Fishrot case, Pius Mwatelulo, and also a handwritten document.

Hatuikulipi and Kokule were initially charged with a third accused, Jason Iyambo, who in November 2020 pleaded guilty on a charge of attempting to defeat or obstruct the course of justice.

Iyambo was sentenced to an effective prison term of nine months after he admitted guilt.

Kokule and Hatuikulipi, whose trial started in February last year, are denying guilt on the charges they are facing.

Three state witnesses testified during the trial. Iyambo was not one of those witnesses.

Muchali and Kasper asked the magistrate to acquit their clients after the prosecution wrapped up its case in their trial, but Nembia turned down the applications for their discharge in a ruling delivered in August last year.

In her ruling, Nembia said the evidence placed before her established a case on which Hatuikulipi and Kokule were required to provide answers.

The two men’s court appearance before Nembia yesterday ended with their case being postponed to 24 July for a hearing of oral arguments, before the delivery of the magistrate’s verdict.

Hatuikulipi, who was arrested near the end of November 2019 in connection with the Fishrot case about the alleged corrupt use of Namibian fishing quotas, and Kokule, arrested in January 2020, are being held in custody.

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