Lawyer’s Withdrawal Derails Cement Fraud Trial

THE trial of six people accused of defrauding cement company AfriSam Namibia to the tune of N$77 million will not be starting as planned in the Windhoek High Court this week.

The trial was scheduled to begin before Judge Christie Liebenberg yesterday, but did not get off the starting blocks due to the withdrawal of the defence lawyer who was representing two of the accused.

Defence lawyer Mel Harmse, who was representing brothers Calvin Bezuidenhout and Gerald Bezuidenhout, gave notice of his withdrawal from the case in June already, but his former clients applied for State-funded legal aid only on Monday this week, it emerged when the two brothers and their co-accused appeared before Judge Liebenberg yesterday.

As a result of that late development, Judge Liebenberg postponed the case to Friday so that a representative of the Directorate of Legal Aid can inform the court by then whether the two men’s applications for legal aid had been successful.

The trial dates – two weeks in September, two weeks in October and another two weeks in November – were set in January this year.

The Bezuidenhouts, a former employee of AfriSam Namibia, Esmerelda Martina Majiedt (49), a Rundu-based businessman, Daniel Baptista De Jesus, Majiedt’s sister, Louise Izaaks, and James Wilson are charged in connection with allegations that Majiedt committed fraud to the tune of N$77 million against AfriSam Namibia from January 2006 to the end of January 2011.

Majiedt is facing a total of 628 charges, consisting of 624 counts of fraud, alternatively theft, three counts of money laundering in terms of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act, and one charge of bribery in terms of the Anti-Corruption Act.

In the alternative charges of theft it is alleged that she stole cement with a total value of N$77 million from AfriSam Namibia.

Majiedt allegedly committed the offences by providing cement to customers of AfriSam Namibia and then receiving payment for the cement in her personal capacity and without the money being channelled to the company.

The prosecution is further alleging that businesses operated by De Jesus and the Bezuidenhout brothers bought cement from AfriSam Namibia during the period in question, and that they committed bribery by paying Majiedt, instead of AfriSam, for the cement.

The State is charging that De Jesus committed fraud, alternatively theft, involving cement with a total value of N$37,8 million bought from AfriSam, while the two brothers are accused of fraud or theft involving cement valued at N$15,1 million. De Jesus and the Bezuidenhouts are charged with counts of fraud, alternatively theft, bribery, and money laundering.

The prosecution is also alleging that Majiedt used a close corporation of Izaaks and Wilson as a trading vehicle through which she sold cement stolen from AfriSam, and that she, her sister and Wilson committed money laundering when she used a bank account of the close corporation and a personal bank account of Izaaks to receive money paid to her for the stolen cement.

Izaaks and Wilson are jointly charged with money laundering and one count of fraud, alternatively theft, involving cement with a value of N$3,5 million.

The six accused are all free on bail.

Majiedt spent a year and a half in police custody before being granted bail of N$250 000 in October 2012. Her co-accused were arrested and charged a week after she had been granted bail. De Jesus was released on bail of N$1 million, while the other accused were each granted bail in an amount of N$100 000.

Source : The Namibian