Avid 7 to Ask for Discharge

ALL of the seven people on trial in the Windhoek High Court in connection with the alleged embezzlement of a Social Security Commission investment of N$30 million in early 2005, will be asking to be acquitted on all charges.

State aocate Ed Marondedze, who has been leading the prosecution in the trial of the seven accused, announced to Judge Christie Liebenberg yesterday that the state had reached the end of its case. After Marondedze closed the case for the prosecution, the defence lawyers representing the seven accused told Judge Liebenberg that they would be applying for the discharge of their clients on all charges.

The state would strenuously oppose any such applications, Marondedze replied.

Judge Liebenberg is expected to start hearing oral arguments on the defence applications for the discharge of the accused today.

Before closing the prosecution’s case, Marondedze told the judge that the man who would have been the state’s next witness in the trial, self-styled investment broker Alan Rosenberg, had stopped answering his phone calls and was not responding to emails since he received written assurances that he would not be prosecuted if he travelled to Namibia to testify.

The South Africa-based Rosenberg demanded to be given immunity from prosecution in Namibia before he would agree to travel to Windhoek to testify in the trial, Marondedze informed the court last week.

Rosenberg would have been the fifteenth witness to testify for the prosecution in the trial, which started when all of the accused denied guilt on all charges near the end of May last year.

The court has heard that Rosenberg played a key role in the flow of millions of dollars from Namibia to South Africa and back to Namibia after the Social Security Commission had transferred N$30 million to a bank account of an unproven asset management company, Avid Investment Corporation, near the end of January 2005. From the account of Avid, N$29,5 million was transferred to an account of another asset management company, Namangol Investments, on 28 January 2005.

The chief executive officer and sole shareholder of Namangol Investments, Nico Josea, is the seventh accused in the trial before Judge Liebenberg.

From the account of Namangol Investments an amount of N$20 million was subsequently transferred to a South African account in the name of “Allan Rosenberg Financial Services”.

In mid-March 2005, Josea received an amount of N$14,9 million back from Rosenberg via Josea’s South African lawyers, leaving Rosenberg with about N$5 million of the money he had initially received from Namangol Investments.

The prosecution is alleging that Josea dealt with the N$14,9 million paid into his account as if it belonged to himself.

Josea claimed in a plea explanation at the start of the trial that he did not know the money deposited into Namangol Investment’s account had originated from the SSC.

He said he received an oral instruction from the late Lazarus Kandara, who in effect was the chief executive officer of Avid, to transfer N$20 million to Rosenberg for investment, and he carried out that instruction. Kandara did not disclose the sources of the money that he wanted to be invested, Josea also claimed.

Before Marondedze closed the prosecution’s case yesterday, Judge Liebenberg ruled that statements which two of the accused, lawyer Sharon Blaauw and her husband, Ralph Blaauw, provided to a police investigator in September 2006 are admissible as evidence in the trial. The judge found that the Blaauws were aware of their rights, and had specifically been aised that they could get legal aice, before they provided the statements. Both of them were also informed of allegations made against them and knew what was required of them was to explain or dispel allegations about the financial downfall of Avid, Judge Liebenberg said.

Former Avid directors Paulus Kapia, Otniel Podewiltz, Inez Gacircses, and Sharon Blaauw, together with Ralph Blaauw, retired Namibian Defence Force brigadier Mathias Shiweda, and Josea, are charged with a count of fraud, alternatively theft, as a result of Avid’s failure to repay the N$30 million that the SSC invested with the company.

All of 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. The four former directors of Avid are further charged with five counts of failing to keep the required company records, such as accounting records, a register of company directors and officers, and minutes of board meetings, in respect of Avid.

Source : The Namibian