Avid Trial Lawyer Threatened in Court

ONE of the defence lawyers involved in the Avid Investment Corporation fraud trial came close to being physically attacked by an incensed relative of one of the prosecution’s witnesses in the Windhoek High Court on Tuesday.

Defence lawyer Jan Wessels, who is representing retired Namibian Defence Force brigadier Mathias Shiweda in the continuing trial before Judge Christie Liebenberg, informed the judge yesterday that a male relative of the prosecution’s seventh witness in the trial, Christophine Kandara, confronted him in the courtroom after the court had adjourned for the day on Tuesday afternoon.

Wessels said when the man walked up to him where he was packing his briefcase “it was abundantly clear that he was possessed with rage and anger”. Wessels said he was certain that the man wanted to assault him, until Mrs Kandara and another woman intervened and dragged the man away from him.

The two prosecutors involved in the trial afterwards escorted him to his car to ensure his safety, Wessels said.

The court would take a serious view of any intimidation or threat against a legal practitioner, Judge Liebenberg said in response to Wessels’ complaint. He said it was “most disconcerting” that a legal practitioner who appeared in court simply to do his work as provided for in terms of the Constitution should feel unsafe while in court.

It would be a sad day if the court had to make an order for the protection of legal practitioners, but at this juncture a stern warning about such behaviour would suffice, the judge said.

Wessels was confronted after most of the day’s court proceedings had been taken up by his cross-examination of Mrs Kandara. At the end of his cross-examination Wessels wanted to question Mrs Kandara about the circumstances of the death of her husband, Lazarus Kandara, who died in front of the Windhoek Central Police Station on the evening of 24 August 2005, before Judge Liebenberg questioned the relevance of that issue and stopped Wessels from proceeding with such a line of questioning.

The late Lazarus Kandara died of a gunshot wound to his chest. An inquest into his death later ended with a magistrate ruling that the evidence before him showed that Kandara, who had been arrested a few hours before the shooting, had taken his own life with a concealed firearm.

Mrs Kandara told the court on Monday that, after being asked by her husband to do so, she handed over amounts of N$40 000 in cash to Ralph Blaauw, Otniel Podewiltz, and Shiweda at her and her husband’s house in Windhoek during February or March 2005. She also gave N$40 000 to Blaauw, with that money supposed to be given to one “Kapia”, Mrs Kandara testified.

The money that she handed to them came from an amount of between N$220 000 and N$240 000 that Nico Josea had delivered to her house, she said.

Josea, Podewiltz, Blaauw, Shiweda, Swapo member of parliament Paulus Kapia, Sharon Blaauw and Inez Gacircses are on trial over the alleged embezzlement of an investment of N$30 million that the Social Security Commission placed with Avid Investment Corporation in January 2005. Avid was set up by the late Lazarus Kandara in 2004.

Mrs Kandara has conceded that she could not say that the “Kapia” her husband had referred to was Paulus Kapia, who is the first accused in the trial.

Shiweda is denying that he visited the Kandaras’ house and that he received any money from Mrs Kandara. Podewiltz and Blaauw are also denying that they received any money from her, their defence lawyer, Christie Mostert, told Mrs Kandara yesterday.

Mrs Kandara agreed that flight records which show that she was booked on a flight from Namibia to South Africa on 4 February 2005 would mean that she was not in Namibia for a few days after that. That would also include the day that Josea says he delivered N$250 000 to Mrs Kandara, and the days on which she said she handed over money to Podewiltz, Blaauw, Shiweda and one “Kapia”.

The trial is due to continue today.

Source : The Namibian