Defence lawyers representing 14 people arrested in Windhoek on human trafficking, fraud and other charges three weeks ago are protesting that the accused are being detained illegally, because they did not appear in court within 48 hours after being arrested.
During an appearance of the 14 accused before magistrate Jozanne Klazen yesterday, defence lawyer Sisa Namandje told the magistrate he intends to file an urgent application in the High Court to ask for the release of his clients.
Namandje said this after Klazen informed him, fellow defence lawyers Gilroy Kasper and Kadhila Amoomo, public prosecutor Seredine Jacobs and the accused that their case was being sent to the High Court on review, to determine if an irregularity occurred during their first court appearance on 6 October.
A divisional magistrate directed that the court proceedings of 6 October should be referred to the High Court, Klazen said.
Namandje and Amoomo both expressed surprise that the decision to send the case to the High Court on review forestalled a hearing about the legality of the detention of the accused that was scheduled to take place before Klazen yesterday.
During the first court appearance of the accused on 6 October, Kasper said he had instructions that the accused were arrested on the evening of 3 October, with the result that more than 48 hours passed before they appeared in court.
Kasper also said if the accused were not brought before a court within 48 hours as stipulated in the Constitution and the Criminal Procedure Act, the court could not perpetuate their unlawful detention.
However, a police officer involved in the investigation of the case told the court the accused were arrested on 4 October, and not the previous evening, when the police carried out an operation at properties in Windhoek that were allegedly used to operate an international cryptocurrency investment scam.
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 charges against them 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$8,8 million) and charges of money laundering, racketeering and failing to pay tax.
The police announced after arrests in the matter had been carried out that young Namibians – mostly students – were recruited by foreign nationals and trained to create false profiles on social media to lure American citizens into an alleged fraudulent cryptocurrency investment scheme that was promised to show quick profits and gains.
Namandje filed an urgent application at the Windhoek High Court yesterday afternoon.
In the application, the accused are asking the court to declare that their detention after 16h00 on 5 October was unlawful and inconsistent with the Constitution, to order that they should be released from custody, and to order that they should return to the Windhoek Magistrate’s Court for future appearances in their case.
Klazen postponed the matter in the Windhoek Magistrate’s Court to today.
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