Court Freezes Suspicious Accounts

PROSECUTOR General Martha Imalwa has obtained a court order to freeze two Namibian bank accounts through which more than N$74 million was allegedly laundered over a period of four months.

A fraudulent passport was used by the sole member of two close corporations in whose names the two bank accounts were opened. A false address in Windhoek’s Wanaheda area was also used to register the two close corporations (CCs) with the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Imalwa has claimed in an affidavit filed with the High Court in Windhoek in support of her application for a Prevention of Organised Crime Act property preservation order over the two accounts.

In her affidavit, Imalwa charged that the two accounts were used to commit fraud and money laundering on a large scale.

In terms of an interim property preservation order that Acting Judge Kobus Miller granted in respect of the two bank accounts on Friday last week, money that remains in the accounts may not be removed or dealt with by anybody while the order remains in force. In the court order, the two CCs that are the holders of the accounts are given until 15 August to show to the court why the interim preservation order should not be made a final order.

A combined amount of about N$747 000 remains in the two accounts through which tens of millions of Namibia dollars have flowed during the first half of this year.

Imalwa stated in an affidavit filed with the court that the Bank of Namibia alerted the police about suspicious transactions on the two accounts, which the close corporations Fort-Nox Distribution CC and Georgetown Investments CC hold at First National Bank of Namibia, on 26 June and 9 July.

The suspicious transaction reports that the Bank of Namibia sent to the police indicated that a total amount of more than N$43,3 million had been deposited into the account of Fort-Nox Distribution CC between February this year and 23 June, while more than N$27,5 million had been paid into the account of Georgetown Investments CC from February to 8 July.

The reports also recorded that transfers amounting to N$42,8 million had been made out of the account of Fort-Nox Distribution within 48 hours after money had been received in the account, Imalwa said in her affidavit. Transfers totalling more than N$28,3 million were made from the account of Georgetown Investments within 48 hours after money had been received in that account.

Both CCs were registered with the Ministry of Trade and Industry on 11 February this year. A 27-year-old Namibian citizen, named as Simon Hafeni Petrus, was registered as the only member of both CCs.

During a police investigation it was discovered that neither the two close corporations nor Petrus are known at the address in Wanaheda that was given as the registered address of the two CCs, Imalwa informed the court.

Enquiries with the Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration also revealed that the passport in Petrus’ name that was used when the CCs were registered and when their bank accounts were opened was not genuine, and that the identity number on the passport was not on the ministry’s record system, Imalwa said.

A salary slip for one Sohum Subhash Mehta, which indicated that he was employed by Fort-Nox Distribution as a “business development consultant”, was included in documents on the CC’s account that FNB provided to the police, Imalwa said. The bank also provided the police with a copy of a Namibian passport that was used by Mehta. According to the Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration that passport, too, is not genuine.

The police’s investigation of the accounts showed that payments totalling N$46,7 million were made into the account of Fort-Nox Distribution between 18 February and 23 June, Imalwa stated. Most of those payments were done by way of electronic transfers and came from a South African FNB account held in the name of a company called Bustque (Pty) Ltd, she said.

Once the money had been received in the account of Fort-Nox Distribution, it was exchanged into foreign currency and then transferred to various companies overseas on the basis of invoices made out to Fort-Nox for goods purchased from those companies. However, the Ministry of Finance’s Directorate of Customs and Excise has informed the police that according to their records Fort-Nox imported goods only on three occasions in March 2014, while they have no record of Georgetown Investments importing anything into Namibia, Imalwa stated.

The police also established that a total amount of more than N$27,5 million was paid into Georgetown Investments’ account from 18 February to 8 July. Most of those payments also came from Bustque. As soon as the payments had been made into the account of Georgetown Investments, most of the money was again transferred back to South Africa, mostly to a company called Kit Kat Group (Pty) Ltd, Imalwa said.

She argued it was reasonable to say that the two CCs and their bank accounts “were just created as instruments to launder the proceeds of unlawful activities between South Africa and Namibia to foreign jurisdictions”. At this stage of the police’s investigation no legitimate business being conducted by the two CCs could be detected, and there are reasonable grounds to believe that the money received into their bank accounts were the proceeds of unlawful activities, namely fraud and money laundering, Imalwa stated.

The next step that the Prosecutor General could take after obtaining a preservation order would be to ask the court to declare the money in the two accounts forfeited to the State.

Source : The Namibian