Trial Over Airnam Ticket Scam Again Delayed

THE involvement of former Air Namibia manager Ellison Hijarunguru in the arrangements for the late Ovaherero Paramount Chief Kuaima Riruako’s funeral led to another postponement of Hijarunguru’s pending trial on charges of corruption yesterday.

Hijarunguru’s defence lawyer, Orben Sibeya, told Magistrate Cosmos Endjala in the Windhoek Magistrate’s Court in Katutura yesterday that Hijarunguru was instrumental in the making of arrangements for Riruako’s funeral, which is due to take place next weekend, and also needed more time to get money together to pay for the expected cost of his legal representation at his trial.

As a result of those two issues, Sibeya asked the magistrate to grant Hijarunguru another postponement of his trial, which was scheduled to begin yesterday.

Endjala postponed the trial as requested and warned that the postponement was a final one for the start of the trial. The rescheduled starting date of the trial is 13 November.

Hijarunguru (54) and a co-accused, former Air Namibia sales representative Anthony Alberts Rickerts (45), are charged with 20 counts of corruptly using an office or position for gratification. Both men have indicated that they are denying all the charges.

Hijarunguru and Rickerts were arrested and charged in October 2011, following an Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) investigation into the alleged corrupt use of flight tickets at Air Namibia.

The ACC alleged in a media statement released after the two men’s arrest that they had been involved in the abuse of barter agreements between Air Namibia and media group Democratic Media Holdings (DMH) in terms of which the airline exchanged air tickets for free newspapers and aertisements.

It is alleged that Hijarunguru and Rickerts placed people who were not employees of DMH, or who were not affiliated with the company, on the barter agreement, while these people were not entitled to such a benefit.

In the process, the two men allegedly received gratification amounting to N$206 077 for themselves.

Hijarunguru resigned from his position at Air Namibia in March 2008, shortly after he had been suspended following the discovery of the alleged misuse of flight tickets deal at the airline.

The two men’s trial was also supposed to start in late January this year, but was postponed to yesterday because Hijarunguru was ill at the time.

Rickerts was represented by defence lawyer Ray Rukoro yesterday. Public prosecutor Veiko Alexander appeared for the State.

Source : The Namibian