Ex-Miss Nam Shakes Off Fraud Charge

THE fraud charge that has been casting a shadow over a former holder of the Miss Namibia title, Barbara Kahatjipara, for the past three and a half years was withdrawn in the Windhoek Magistrate’s Court yesterday.

The charge was withdrawn after Magistrate Justine Asino refused to again postpone Kahatjipara’s case to give the prosecution more time to get ready for the start of the former Miss Namibia’s trial. Despite a request from the complainant in Kahatjipara’s case – her former employer, the Namibian Employers’ Federation (NEF) – to have the charge against her withdrawn, the State still tried to proceed with the prosecution that Kahatjipara has been facing since first appearing in court in early February 2011.

Kahatjipara was accused of having defrauded the NEF by having N$57 638 transferred from a bank account of the NEF to her personal account in June 2010.

Since her first court appearance on the charge Kahatjipara has said that she had a defence to counter the charge.

Over the past three and a half years Kahatjipara’s case has been postponed repeatedly for the start of her trial, with all of the envisaged starting dates for the trial passing without trial proceedings beginning as planned.

The trial was again supposed to start on Friday last week, but with a key prosecution witness absent from court and the NEF having formally requested the withdrawal of the charge the case was postponed for a final time to yesterday.

Prosecutor Nasilele Siyambango again tried to have the case postponed yesterday. She told Magistrate Asino that the magistrate who was supposed to preside over the trial was not available, and asked for another final postponement of the case, to February next year.

However, defence lawyer Richard Metcalfe reminded the magistrate that the complainant in the matter, the NEF, has stated through its secretary general, Tim Parkhouse, that it did not want to proceed with the case against Kahatjipara. Metcalfe added that a crucial witness in the case, who was attached to a German development aid agency that provided funding to the NEF, has made it clear that he did not want to have anything to do with the matter any more and that he would not be travelling from Germany to Namibia to testify at the trial.

If the case were to be postponed again it would extend the period that Kahatjipara has been left in limbo to four years, Metcalfe said.

Magistrate Asino said there was no indication from the prosecution why such a crucial witness had not been subpoenaed to be present at court for the scheduled start of the trial. She remarked that the State’s house was evidently not in order, and that it would not be in the interest of the administration of justice to have the case postponed again.

In the statement in which Parkhouse asked the State to drop the prosecution against Kahatjipara, he said the NEF board decided at a meeting in late November last year that it no longer wished to pursue the criminal charge, after new information that weakened the case against her came to light during the hearing of a civil claim by the NEF against Kahatjipara in the High Court.

Parkhouse stated that in the NEF’s opinion the new information has “enfeebled the State’s case to prove the charges against [Kahatjipara] beyond reasonable doubt as required in criminal matters”.

During the hearing of the civil case in November last year the court heard that after the money had been transferred from the NEF account to Kahatjipara’s personal account, she made a payment of N$24 150 from her account to a company that was owed that amount by the NEF.

It was further indicated to the court that the remainder of the money was meant to cover travelling expenses incurred by Kahatjipara on a trip that she made to New York towards the end of June 2010 to attend a conference on behalf of the NEF.

Source : The Namibian