Advocate Metcalfe recuses himself from Avid/SCC trial

WINDHOEK; Advocate Richard Metcalfe has recused himself from the N.dollars 30 million Avid Investment and Social Security Commission (SCC) fraud trial.

The lawyer did this on Thursday morning, following an earlier application by Deputy Prosecutor-General Ed Marondedze for him to do so.

Metcalfe was representing retired Namibian Defence Force (NDF) Brigadier Mathias Shiweda in the matter.

In the application for the lawyer’s recusal, Marondedze had argued before presiding High Court Judge Christie Liebenberg that there was a conflict of interest because Metcalfe had represented former SSC General Manager of Finance and Administration, Avril Green, during a disciplinary hearing linked to the Avid matter some eight years ago.

The new developments have now forced the trial to be postponed until 07 July this year in order to allow Metcalfe’s law firm to appoint and instruct another defence lawyer to represent Shiweda.

Meanwhile, Green, who was also present in court on Thursday, was informed to return to court on 07 July because he is the next State witness to give evidence in the matter on behalf of the prosecution.

In the matter, all seven people on trial in connection with the missing N.dollars 30 million have denied any involvement or knowledge of the missing money when the trial kicked off on 27 May this year.

The seven former Avid Investment directors denied the allegations when they each pleaded ’not guilty’ to 10 counts of fraud, alternatively theft; corruption; and giving false evidence in an inquiry in terms of the Companies’ Act at the start of their trial.

They are Windhoek-based businessman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Namangol Asset Management Company Nicolaas Josea; former Deputy Minister of Works, Transport and Communication Paulus Iilonga Kapia; Avid Investment’s Administrative Secretary Inez //Gases; former Acting Secretary-General of the National Youth Council (NYC) Ralph Blaauw and his wife Sharon Blaauw.

The other two suspects are Labour Ministry official and lawyer Otniel Podewiltz, and Shiweda.

The seven persons, in explaining their pleas, all denied the allegations contained in the charge-sheet, and each challenged the State to prove otherwise.

The State alleges that the seven suspects were all directors in the little-known Avid Investment Asset Management Company, which allegedly obtained money from the SSC through its links to the ruling Swapo-Party.

In 2005, Avid Investment made headlines when it allegedly acquired N.dollars 30 million from the SSC, allegedly under dubious circumstances.

The money was then apparently invested in an offshore company, but it could later not be accounted for.

The disappearance of the money led to a High Court inquiry before acting Judge Raymond Heathcote in 2005.

Avid Investment CEO, the late Lazarus Kandara, who was believed to be the kingpin in the Avid/SCC saga, was said to have committed suicide while under police escort in front of the Windhoek Police Station during the inquiry.

All suspects are free on bail of N.dollars 10 000 each, and their bail was also extended until their next court appearance.

Marondedze is being assisted by State Advocate Cliff Lutibezi.

Defence lawyers Sisa Namandje, Christie Mostert, Werner Boesak and Slysken Makando are defending the six other accused persons.