Avid Trial Still On First Witness

THE first prosecution witness in the Avid Investment Corporation fraud trial is due to return to the Windhoek High Court for an eighth day of testimony today.

For most of last week, State witness Gideon Mulder testified under cross-examination from lawyers representing the seven accused in the trial before Judge Christie Liebenberg. The last of the five defence lawyers, Slysken Makando, who is representing the seventh accused, Nico Josea, is supposed to start his cross-examination of Mulder today.

Mulder was the Social Security Commission’s manager of corporate finance when the SSC placed an investment of N$30 million with Avid Investment Corporation, which was an inexperienced asset management company, in January 2005. On the supposed maturity date of the investment four months later, the company was unable to return the N$30 million and the promised investment growth to the SSC, leading to the liquidation of Avid and the current prosecution of four former directors of the company and three other people alleged to have been involved with the company or in the investment.

Mulder told the court that five of the accused – former Avid directors Paulus Kapia, Inez Gacircses and Otniel Podewiltz, former Namibian defence force brigadier Mathias Shiweda, and Ralph Blaauw – were in contact with him or other senior colleagues at the SSC to persuade them to place the investment with Avid and to assure them of the company’s trustworthiness.

During cross-examination over the past week Mulder has at times been getting hot under the collar, complaining to judge Liebenberg that he was being asked repetitive questions and that he was being accused while in fact he was in court as a witness.

Mulder told the court that Avid offered an annual growth of 14,65 % on a short-term investment of N$80 million for which the SSC had requested quotations. In other quotes received by the SSC from commercial banks, the Agricultural Bank of Namibia and NamPost, the parastatal was offered an annual investment return ranging between 8,2% and 8,65%, Mulder said.

He said he was convinced of the credentials of the people involved in Avid, since he had been told that Kapia – at that stage waiting to be sworn in as a member of parliament in March 2005 – and Podewiltz, who had impressed him with his involvement in an earlier presidential commission of enquiry into the affairs of the SSC, were both involved in the company.

Mulder said after it was decided to invest N$30 million with Avid, he was asked to find out where the offices of Avid were. When he made a phone call to the company’s office, the late Lazarus Kandara answered the call, Mulder said.

At that stage, Kandara was out of favour at the SSC, since it emerged from the commission of inquiry that he had earned large amounts of money as commission from the SSC while he was not registered as an insurance broker and was operating under the name of a veteran broker instead.

Mulder said he passed the information about Kandara having picked up the phone at Avid’s office to his superiors. At a later meeting at Kapia’s office, Kapia assured him and his colleagues from the SSC that Kandara was not involved with Avid, Mulder said.

He wanted to have nothing to do with Kandara, and if he knew for certain that Kandara was involved in Avid he would have aised his superiors that the SSC should not do business with the company, Mulder said.

Kapia’s defence lawyer, Sisa Namandje, has put it to Mulder that according to Kapia he told Mulder and his colleagues that he was not aware that Kandara was supposedly the chief executive officer of Avid or that he had signatory powers on the company’s bank accounts. Namandje has also told Mulder that according to Kapia he always acted in good faith and never had any intention to defraud the SSC or steal money from it.

On Friday, Shiweda’s defence lawyer, Richard Metcalfe, pointed out to Mulder that a simple inquiry about Avid at the Namibian Financial Institutions Supervisory Authority (Namfisa) would have confirmed his suspicions about Kandara’s involvement in the company.

Namfisa’s records show that Kandara was reflected as being the CEO of Avid and one of its portfolio managers at the end of May 2004, when Namfisa approved Avid’s application to conduct investment management business in Namibia.

Source : The Namibian