Start of Mbok’s Cheque Theft Trial Deferred

THE trial of Cameroonian national Antoine Mbok and a Namibian co-accused, Daniel Nghiwilepo, on charges of corruption, theft and money laundering will not be starting as scheduled in the Windhoek High Court next week.

A new date for the start of Mbok and Nghiwilepo’s trial will have to be set after Judge Nate Ndauendapo on Friday granted Nghiwilepo a postponement of the trial.

Nghiwilepo’s defence lawyer, Boris Isaacks, informed the judge that Nghiwilepo was asking for a postponement because he insisted he wanted one of Namibia’s top criminal lawyers, Louis Botes, to represent him with Isaacks during his trial. However, Botes would not be available during the scheduled trial dates of 6 to 30 May and 16 to 20 June, Isaacks said.

With the High Court’s criminal case roll full for most of the rest of this year, new trial dates only in 2015 could be a likelihood.

Isaacks also told Judge Ndauendapo that Mbok’s defence lawyer, Brownell Uirab, had informed him that he was not opposing Nghiwilepo’s application for a postponement.

Nghiwilepo, who is employed as a manager at Namibia Wildlife Resorts, managed only in April to get enough money together to pay Botes’ fees, but by then Botes was no longer available for the scheduled trial dates, Isaacks said.

The prosecution, represented by State aocate Shakwa Nyambe, argued against a postponement, but Judge Ndauendapo granted Nghiwilepo his request. He directed the prosecutor and defence lawyers to meet him in his chambers this week to arrange new dates for the trial.

Mbok and Nghiwilepo are charged with five counts of corruption, alternatively theft, and five counts of money laundering.

The charges originate from the theft of five cheques, with a total value of more than N$3,9 million, from the Ministry of Finance in January and February 2010.

It is alleged that the stolen cheques were later deposited into the bank account of a company of Mbok, M Finance (Pty) Ltd. Close to N$372 000 was withdrawn from the account before it was frozen as a result of an investigation into the theft of the cheques, which were supposed to be paid to the Ministry of Finance. Mbok is charged both in his personal capacity and as a representative of the Ministry of Finance.

He and Nghiwilepo were initially charged with a third accused, Veronika Kituna Thomas, who was employed as a clerk with the Ministry of Finance at the time that the cheques were stolen.

Nghiwilepo appears to be set to have a fight on his hands once the trial starts.

Thomas gave incriminating testimony against him after she had pleaded guilty in February 2012 to five counts of corruptly using her office or position for gratification. Mbok and Nghiwilepo pleaded not guilty to all charges against them at the same time, and their trial was then separated from that of Thomas.

Before being sentenced, Thomas told the court she was asked by Nghiwilepo, who she said was a childhood friend of hers, to steal the cheques.

She said she was initially reluctant to agree to Nghiwilepo’s request, but eventually gave in to him when he persisted in asking her to steal the cheques.

She said she gave the cheques to him, and claimed she never received any share of the money stolen in that way.

Thomas also told the court she did not know Mbok and that she did not know what Nghiwilepo had done with the cheques after she had given them to him. She further said she was willing to testify as a witness for the prosecution at the trial of Nghiwilepo and Mbok.

Thomas was sentenced to an effective eight years’ imprisonment in late March 2012.

Mbok and Nghiwilepo were due to go on trial at the beginning of April last year, but new trial dates in May and June this year were then set after Mbok’s defence lawyer withdrew from the matter on short notice.

Mbok is free on bail of N$3 000, while Nghiwilepo is free on a warning from the court.

Source : The Namibian