Avid/SSC fraud suspects want to be discharged

WINDHOEK: All seven persons arrested in April 2008 in connection with the N.dollars 30 million Avid Investment and Social Security Commission (SSC) fraud scandal, want to be discharged.

The seven are Windhoek businessman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Namangol Asset Management Company, Nico Josea; former Deputy Minister of Works, Transport and Communication and Swapo Party politician Paulus 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; Labour Ministry official and lawyer Otniel Podewiltz, as well as retired Namibian Defence Force (NDF) Brigadier, Mathias Shiweda.

These former directors of Avid Investment are each separately charged with about 10 counts of fraud, alternatively theft, corruption and giving false evidence in an inquiry in terms of the Companies’ Act No 28 of 2004.

They want to be discharged on all charges.

The group, through their respective defence lawyers, told presiding High Court Judge Christi Liebenberg that they will each bring applications for discharge in terms of the Section 174 of the Namibian Criminal Procedures Act.

The seven said this shortly after prosecution representative, Deputy Prosecutor-General Ed Marondedze closed the State’s case on Monday morning, saying the prosecution could not secure South African citizen, Allan Rosenberg, to provide evidence in the trial.

Rosenberg, supposedly the last witness to testify on behalf of the State, was the very person who was entrusted by the management of the little-known Avid Asset Management Company to invest the missing N.dollars 30 million in South Africa and other offshore markets elsewhere in the world.

The trial was then postponed to Tuesday in order to allow the accused persons’ defence lawyers to file their applications for their clients’ discharge.

Prominent Windhoek-based defence lawyer Sisa Namandje, who is appearing for Kapia, said he will file an application for discharge with heads of arguments before the Registrar of the Windhoek High Court during the course of Monday this week.

Namandje said he is ready to present his arguments before court on Tuesday morning.

Attorney Jan Wessels, appearing for Shiweda, will file his application for the discharge of his client on Tuesday.

Werner Boesak, appearing for //Gases, indicated that he will file the application for the discharge of his client on Wednesday.

Slysken Makando, who is defending Josea, said he will file his application for the discharge of his client on Wednesday.

Kasper Gilroy, who is defending Ralph and Sharon Blaauw, as well as Podewiltz, will file his clients’ applications on Thursday.

The accused persons were all present in court on Monday.

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

The money was then 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’s CEO Lazarus Kandara, who was believed to be the kingpin in the Avid/SCC saga, committed suicide while escorted by the police in front of the Windhoek Police Station during the inquiry.

State Advocate Marondedze is being assisted by Public Prosecutor Cliff Lutibezi.

All suspects are free on bail of N.dollars 10 000 each, and their bail was extended until Tuesday for the hearing of the applications for discharge.