Lawyer Ends Testimony With Denials

TO the end of his testimony under cross-examination, veteran lawyer Arumugam Thambapilai last week denied that he tried to defraud the Motor Vehicle Accident Fund of Namibia by lodging false claims on behalf of his clients.

“I had no intention to play any mischief with MVA or any other entity,” Thambapilai stated while being cross-examined by State aocate Ed Marondedze. “I deny I ever misrepresented any information to the MVA,” he added.

Thambapilai continued with the testimony in his own defence that he started giving before Acting Judge AK Simpson in August last year.

After continuing with his testimony in December, the trial in which the veteran lawyer and five co-accused face a total of 16 charges was postponed to last week.

The charges against the six accused are based on allegations that during the period of June 2000 to September 2005 Thambapilai lodged fraudulent claims, or claims that included false information, with the MVA Fund on behalf of clients of his firm.

Thambapilai is facing all of the 16 charges – six of fraud, seven of forgery and uttering, two of theft, and one of attempting to defeat or obstruct the course of justice.

His four co-accused were clients, while one is a former police officer accused of falsifying a road accident report which was later submitted to the MVA Fund. They face between one and five counts each.

They all pleaded not guilty when their trial began in August 2010.

Four of the charges faced by Thambapilai flow from a compensation claim that he helped a widow of a road accident victim to lodge with the MVA Fund. The claim had not been processed when the widow died in February 2001, but the MVA Fund was not informed of her death and an amount of N$75 906 was eventually paid out by the fund to Thambapilai in his capacity as her legal representative, the court has heard.

The MVA Fund laid charges against Thambapilai in 2005, after it discovered that the claimant had died before her claim had been processed and that the MVA Fund was not informed of that development. That led to Thambapilai’s arrest in December 2005.

Thambapilai, who has told the court that he has been practising law since 1971, said he first found out about the claimant’s death when the police arrived at his firm’s office to investigate.

He said he had been dealing with the claimant through her son, Festus Shindume, now one of his co-accused.

On the day Shindume came to his office to collect the payment the MVA Fund had made to the claimant, he was accompanied by a woman whom he introduced as his mother, Thambapilai said.

Shindume’s defence lawyer, Amupanda Kamanja, told Thambapilai when he cross-examined him on Wednesday that according to his client his mother’s sister, whom he regarded as a mother after his biological mother’s death, accompanied him to his office to collect the payment.

Kamanja also said according to Shindume he had taken his mother’s death certificate to Thambapilai’s office shortly after her death, and that a secretary of Thambapilai then told him that he should not tell anyone else about the death of his mother.

The secretary testified as a witness for the prosecution earlier in the trial.

Shindume is also saying he never discussed any attempt to conceal his mother’s death with Thambapilai, and denying any intention to defraud the MVA Fund, Kamanja said.

Thambapilai has been telling Acting Judge Simpson throughout his testimony that he communicated with most of his clients, who were not well versed in English, through interpreters. If there were incorrect facts in the claims that were lodged, that was the information which he received, he said.

The trial is scheduled to continue from 4 September, after it was postponed on Friday.

Source : The Namibian