Card Cloners Get Sentencing Date

THE five men convicted of having been involved in an international fraud scheme in which cloned bank cards were used to withdraw money in Namibia are due to be sentenced on 16 June.

The date for the sentencing of the five convicted men was set after the last oral arguments on the sentences to be handed down by Judge Alfred Siboleka were heard in the Windhoek High Court yesterday.

Defence lawyers Sisa Namandje and Brownell Uirab argued that, taking into account that four of the men have been detained in prison for nearly seven years following their arrest, the case before Judge Siboleka was an appropriate one in which the court should sentence the accused to fully suspended terms of imprisonment.

State aocate Ed Marondedze’s reply to these suggestions by the two defence lawyers yesterday was to argue that the convicted men should be sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment each.

Judge Siboleka convicted the five accused – Sri Lankans Pararasasingam Sarangan (30) and Anthony Suresh Kumar Stanis (37), British citizen Satheeskumar Thulasithas (35), Singaporean national Abdul Kader Jamal (48), and Namibian Travoltha Mekaundapi Tjiuiju (33) – on a charge of conspiracy to commit fraud two and a half weeks ago. The judge also convicted Thulasithas, Sarangan, Stanis and Jamal on a charge of fraud involving an unknown amount of money.

He further found Thulasithas, Sarangan and Stanis guilty on three charges of unlawful use of property involving bank cards belonging to other people that were found in their possession. Thulasithas, Sarangan and Jamal were also convicted of having failed to declare foreign currency in their possession when they entered Namibia. The three of them and Tjiuiju were lastly found guilty of having forged a driving licence in Tjiuiju’s name.

All the accused except Stanis were arrested on 7 August 2007. Stanis was arrested on 26 September 2007.

The court has been informed that Tjiuiju spent about 11 months in custody before he was released on bail. The other accused have remained in custody since their arrest.

The five men stood trial on a total of 1 516 charges, based on allegations that they defrauded Namibian banks, Visa International and Barclays Bank PLC during the period of 19 March 2007 to 7 August 2007 by making unauthorised withdrawals of money from the accounts of British clients of Barclays Bank. The prosecution alleged that the accused used cloned bank cards of clients of Barclays Bank to withdraw about N$1,46 million at automated teller machines in Namibia, and that they also tried without success to withdraw an additional N$2,77 million from British bank clients’ accounts using the same method.

Uirab argued yesterday that the court convicted the men of fraud only in respect of illegal withdrawals that had been made from the bank accounts of 22 British cardholders, and that the amount of money withdrawn from those accounts was around N$300 000. Considering that amount, the time that the accused have spent in prison awaiting the end of their trial has already been longer than the sort of sentence that Namibian courts would normally impose in a fraud case involving a similar amount, Uirab argued.

Like Uirab, Namandje also argued that a wholly suspended sentence would be the fairest option as a sentence.

Marondedze argued that such a sentence would trivialise the seriousness of the case.

The sentences to be meted out by the court should show that Namibia is at the forefront of combating international fraud syndicates committing this type of crime with the use of cloned bank cards, he argued.

About N$920 000 was found at the guest house in Windhoek where Thulasithas and Sarangan were staying at the time of their arrest, Marondedze reminded the court.

That money and evidence that the accused had been living the high life in Namibia – wining and dining, dancing in nightclubs and gallivanting around the country – showed that they had stolen and spent much more money than the N$300 000 calculated by the defence lawyers, Marondedze argued.

Tjiuiju’s bail was revoked when Judge Siboleka delivered his verdict on 7 April. The judge has ordered that he and the other accused should remain in custody until their sentencing.

Source : The Namibian