Avid 7 Deny All Charges

THE seven people accused of embezzling a N$30 million investment of the Social Security Commission in early 2005 denied all allegations of wrongdoing on their part at the start of their trial in the Windhoek High Court yesterday.

The seven accused pleaded not guilty to all of the charges faced by them, and in written plea explanations provided to Judge Christie Liebenberg specifically denied having defrauded the Social Security Commission or stolen the N$30 million that the SSC invested with an asset management company, Avid Investment Corporation, in early 2005.

Swapo member of parliament Paulus Kapia, who was a director of Avid, three fellow former directors of the company, Inez Gacircses, Otniel Podewiltz and Sharon Blaauw, the latter’s husband, Ralph Blaauw, retired Namibian Defence Force Brigadier Mathias Shiweda, and Nico Josea are all charged with a count of fraud, alternatively theft, in connection with the alleged embezzlement of the SSC’s investment of N$30 million with Avid.

After the SSC transferred N$30 million to a bank account of Avid near the end of January 2005, N$29,5 million of that amount was transferred to an account of Namangol Investments, which was a company owned by Josea.

Except for being charged with fraud, the seven accused also face charges of reckless or fraudulent conduct of business and giving false evidence at a High Court enquiry into the financial collapse of Avid. Both of those charges are under the 1973 Companies Act.

The four former directors of Avid are further charged with six counts under the 1973 Companies Act, in which it is alleged that they had failed in their statutory duties as directors of the company by for instance failing to keep records of their activities as directors and failing to keep proper accounting records for the company.

In his plea explanation Kapia decried the prosecution’s decision to charge him. He claimed that from the contents of the police docket on the investigation of the case “it is clear that there was no legal basis to charge me”.

Kapia also claimed: “It is evident that the State cannot escape a conclusion that charging me was simply an act of inappropriate submission by the State to the uninformed public pressure and expectation. The State knows exactly who stole the money alleged, and that I did not criminally associate myself with such people or entities.” (sic)

The SSC’s investment of N$30 million with Avid has had far-reaching personal consequences on people like himself, and he has “suffered massively in my political career”, Kapia stated.

He said in his plea explanation: “I have endured agony and unwarranted public stigma simply for having been a director of Avid, and when I have not committed any criminal act. I now have to answer to charges when the State has no evidence whatsoever that I committed any offence in relation to the investment.”

In his plea explanation Josea stated that he did not know that an amount of N$29,5 million that the founder of Avid, the late Lazarus Kandara, deposited in a bank account of Namangol Investments on 28 January 2005 had originated from the SSC. Josea added that Kandara gave him oral instructions to transfer N$20 million to one Alan Rosenberg to be invested by the latter, to find an investment with high returns for an amount of N$6,3 million, and to keep the remaining N$3,2 million in his company’s account pending further instructions from Kandara.

The money kept in the account was later “dispersed as directed by him (the late Mr Kandara)”, Josea stated.

Gacircses said in her plea explanation that Kandara, who was her cousin, asked her to become a director of Avid in April 2004. She said she was surprised when she later discovered that she had been made the chairperson of the company’s board of directors – without having attended any board meeting where such a decision had been taken.

Gacircses said after the SSC had transferred the N$30 million to an account of Avid she, “to my best knowledge”, signed a letter authorising the transfer of the full amount from Avid’s account. When she discovered later that only N$29,5 million had been transferred, she realised that N$0,5 million of the SSC’s money had been used to cover a shortfall in Avid’s account, she recounted.

Podewiltz informed the court that he was a director of Avid only from mid-April 2004 until 24 November 2004. That was well before the SSC investment was done, he pointed out.

According to Mrs Blaauw, Kandara approached her in April 2004 and asked her to become a director of Avid. After discussing the matter with her husband, who had more knowledge of business than she did, she agreed. She was never invited to any meetings of the company’s directors, did not attend any such meetings either, and had no recollection of seeing Kandara again after first meeting him, she stated.

Shiweda related that Mr Blaauw introduced him to Kandara. Having been made to understand that Mr Blaauw and Kapia would be among the shareholders of Avid, he was under the impression that the company would be a Swapo Party Youth League business venture, Shiweda stated. He stated that Kandara and Mr Blaauw offered him shareholding in the company, but that he never received any share certificates or other company documents relating to Avid.

The SPYL was in fact offered 8% of the shareholding in Avid, Mr Blaauw stated. In his plea explanation he denied that he informed the State’s first witness in the trial, former SSC manager Gideon Mulder, that President Sam Nujoma was also involved in the company.

Mulder, who started to testify yesterday afternoon, is due to continue with his testimony today.

Source : The Namibian