Defence Lawyer Stresses ‘Harsh Prison Stay’

THE unusually long period of almost seven years already spent in prison by four of the men convicted of having been part of a cross-border fraud scheme involving cloned bank cards should drive anybody with a sense of justice towards having mercy on the convicted men, a defence lawyer argued yesterday.

Defence lawyer Sisa Namandje laid emphasis on the time that four of the men whom Judge Alfred Siboleka convicted on Monday have already spent in custody when he addressed the judge in mitigation of the sentences that are to be imposed on the accused at the end of their trial.

Since their arrest in August and September 2007, the lives of the four accused who have been kept in custody have been on hold while the world outside the walls of their prison has been changing in a multitude of ways, Namandje argued.

He told Judge Siboleka that the four – Sri Lankans Pararasasingam Sarangan (30) and Anthony Suresh Kumar Stanis (37), British citizen Satheeskumar Thulasithas (35), and Singaporean national Abdul Kader Jamal (48) – have been detained in prison in conditions meant for people who have already been convicted and sentenced to terms of imprisonment.

“They have been subjected to the stringent circumstances means for convicted persons,” Namandje said. That should be regarded as the main mitigating factor when Judge Siboleka decides what sentence to impose on the convicted men, he argued.

Namandje is representing Thulasithas, Sarangan and Stanis. Jamal and the only Namibian among the accused, Travoltha Mekaundapi Tjiuiju (32), who was on bail until he and his co-accused were pronounced guilty on Monday, are being represented by defence lawyer Brownell Uirab.

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 ATM 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.

The 1 516 charges against them included a count of conspiracy to commit fraud, 1 032 charges of fraud, and 475 counts of forgery.

Judge Alfred Siboleka found all of the five accused guilty of conspiracy to commit fraud, and also convicted Thusalithas, 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 of the accused except Stanis were arrested on 7 August 2007. Stanis was arrested on 26 September 2007. Namandje told the judge that his three clients have instructed him to convey their remorse about the crimes of which they were convicted to the court.

He related that his clients have been badly affected by the civil war that divided their motherland, Sri Lanka, until the end of the war while they were in prison in Namibia as trial-awaiting detainees.

They have been kept in prison in harsh conditions, Namandje argued.

He is due to continue with his address in mitigation of sentence on Thursday next week (17 April).

Source : The Namibian