Ex-SSC Top Brass to Testify in Avid Trial

FORMER high-level employees of the Social Security Commission are expected to be the first prosecution witnesses who will be testifying in the trial of seven people accused of embezzling an SSC investment of N$30 million.

The trial of the seven accused is due to start before Judge Christie Liebenberg in the Windhoek High Court today, with the accused set to give their pleas in response to an indictment containing a total of eleven charges.

The indictment remains unchanged after Judge Liebenberg on Friday last week dismissed an attack that defence lawyer Sisa Namandje, who is representing Swapo member of parliament Paulus Kapia, had launched at the start of the week against eight of the nine charges faced by Kapia.

Former SSC managers Gideon Mulder and Avril Green and the former chief executive officer of the parastatal, Tuli Hiveluah, are expected to be the first witnesses who will be testifying for the prosecution after the accused have pleaded to the charges.

The three prospective witnesses have been present at the High Court during last week, when the judge heard oral arguments on Kapia’s application to have eight of the nine charges against him quashed.

Namandje argued last week that Kapia – and by extension also his co-accused – could no longer be prosecuted for offences allegedly committed under the Companies Act of 1973, since that law was repealed and replaced with a new Companies Act in November 2010. Namandje argued that the new Companies Act does not contain

a transitional provision that would have kept some of the provisions of the previous Companies Act alive after that law was repealed and that would have enabled the State to still charge and prosecute someone under the 1973 law.

In his ruling on Friday, Judge Liebenberg said he had no doubt that it could never have been parliament’s intention that offences in terms of the 1973 Companies Act that were committed before the new Companies Act came into operation could no longer be prosecuted once the new law had come into effect. He further found that the Interpretation of Laws Proclamation of 1920 addressed the situation before the court by specifically providing for a transitional procedure in the absence of a similar provision in a new law.

Kapia, Nico Josea, Inez

Gacircses, lawyers Otniel Podewiltz and Sharon Blaauw, the latter’s husband, Ralph Blaauw, and retired Namibian Defence Force Brigadier Mathias Shiweda are all charged with a count of fraud, alternatively theft, in connection with the alleged embezzlement of an investment of N$30 million that the Social Security Commission placed with an asset management company, Avid Investment Corporation, in January 2005.

Kapia, Gacircses, Podewiltz and Sharon Blaauw were directors of Avid Investment Corporation. The prosecution is alleging that Ralph Blaauw and Shiweda associated themselves with the company and that Josea was an associate of the founder of Avid, the late Lazarus Kandara.

Avid ended up being liquidated in July 2005, after it was unable to pay back the SSC’s investment and the interest earnings that had been promised to the parastatal.

Except for being charged with fraud, the seven accused also face charges of reckless or fraudulent conduct of business and giving false evidence at a High Court inquiry into the financial collapse of Avid. Both of those charges are under the 1973 Companies Act.

The four former directors of Avid are further charged with six counts under the 1973 Companies Act, in which it is alleged that they had failed in their statutory duties as directors of the company by for instance failing to keep records of their activities as directors and failing to keep proper accounting records for the company.

Podewiltz alone is also charged with two counts of corruption for having allegedly received cash payments from the late Kandara or his wife while Podewiltz was employed in the Ministry of Labour.

Source : The Namibian