CC Admits Scrap Copper Scam Charges

ONE of the members of a close corporation that has been at the centre of a long-running High Court trial over the corrupt and fraudulent sale of scrap copper that belonged to Telecom Namibia was found guilty on 19 counts of fraud yesterday.

Acting Judge Collins Parker found businessman Heinz Dresselhaus guilty in his capacity as a representative of the close corporation Dresselhaus Scrap CC, instead of in his personal capacity, after Dresselhaus pleaded guilty to the charges on behalf of the close corporation (CC) on Wednesday.

The other member of the CC, Ettienne Weakley, and former Telecom Namibia manager James Camm, who faced charges as co-accused of Dresselhaus, were found not guilty on all counts after Chief Prosecutor Danie Small closed the State’s case against the three men on Wednesday and conceded that the charges against Weakley and Camm had not been proven.

The three accused were charged in their personal capacities when they pleaded not guilty to 30 counts at the start of their trial in January 2008. Their trial was interrupted for about five years as Dresselhaus and Weakley pursued a constitutional challenge against a part of the Criminal Procedure Act in the Supreme Court, where a judgement on the matter was finally given in April last year.

With the resumption of the trial this week, Small amended the indictment against the three accused to have Dresselhaus and Weakley charged in their capacities as representatives of Dresselhaus Scrap CC as well, before Dresselhaus offered the guilty plea on behalf of the CC to the court.

Dresselhaus, Weakley and Camm stood trial in the Windhoek High Court

on 30 charges, consisting of eleven main counts of corruption, thirteen main counts of fraud, and six main charges of theft, as well as various alternative charges.

Weakley had been facing charges since June 2001, while Dresselhaus and Camm were charged in June 2005.

The charges were based on allegations that Dresselhaus Scrap paid bribes and kickbacks to Camm and a former procurement manager of Telecom Namibia, Ivan Ganes, and defrauded Telecom Namibia to the tune of close to N$1,2 million between late 1998 and early 2001, while the CC had an exclusive contract to buy scrap copper from the telecommunications parastatal.

Ganes was sentenced to an effective two-year prison term and a fine of N$100 000 in June 2005, after he had pleaded guilty to 13 counts of fraud in connection with the scrap copper transactions between Telecom Namibia and Dresselhaus Scrap.

Having served his sentence, he returned to court to testify as a witness for the prosecution in the trial of Dresselhaus, Weakley and Camm. Ganes was supposed to continue with his testimony with the continuation of the trial this week.

In a plea explanation provided to Acting Judge Parker on Wednesday, Dresselhaus stated that he continued to emphatically deny the allegations made by Ganes.

He stated that he and Weakley established through investigations of their own that Ganes had from time to time under-invoiced Dresselhaus Scrap CC in respect of scrap copper that the CC bought from Telecom Namibia, and that the accounting department of the CC issued cheques in those incorrect amounts to pay the parastatal.

Dresselhaus said it was also established that the accounting department of the CC rewarded Ganes for the under-invoicing by making cheque and cash payments to him.

Camm “was, according to my personal knowledge, not a party to the fraudulent under-invoicing”, Dresselhaus said.

He informed the court that the CC was under-invoiced in a total amount of about N$930 000, and that the actual loss suffered by Telecom Namibia was close to N$450 000.

Telecom Namibia later sued Dresselhaus Scrap for more than N$9 million in a civil case, which was settled when the CC agreed to pay the parastatal N$2,4 million.

Dresselhaus Scrap was a successful business, but it was destroyed by the scam orchestrated by Ganes, senior counsel Willie Vermeulen, who represented Dresselhaus and Weakley during the trial, told Acting Judge Parker yesterday.

Vermeulen suggested that a fine of not more than N$250 000 would be an appropriate sentence for Dresselhaus. Weakley has undertaken to pay the fine, the court was also told.

Source : The Namibian