Businessman Denies Fraud Charges

A BUSINESS relationship that fell apart on a sour note 10 years ago landed a Swakopmund property developer in the dock in the Windhoek High Court on 10 fraud charges involving close to N$1,1 million this week.

Property developer Hans Peter Rothen (68) pleaded not guilty to ten counts of fraud, a charge of theft, and a contravention of the Close Corporations Act on the first day of his trial before Judge Naomi Shivute on Tuesday.

Rothen’s defence lawyer, senior counsel Herman Oosthuizen, told Judge Shivute that his client’s defence to the charges is that he did not intend to defraud anyone or steal from anyone. Rothen is also denying – in respect of the last of the 12 charges he is facing – that he carried on the business of a close corporation in which he was a member, Sea Side Properties Investment CC, recklessly, with gross negligence or with the intent to defraud, Oosthuizen said.

The prosecution against Rothen is part of the fallout from the acrimonious end of the business relationship between Rothen and another member of Sea Side Properties Investment CC, Bernd Muller. Rothen is not only facing criminal charges originating from the time he and Muller were business partners, but has also been sued by Muller in a civil case that has been heard in the Windhoek High Court. Rothen and Muller went into a property development partnership at Swakopmund in February 2002, the prosecution is alleging in the indictment listing the charges against Rothen.

The state is alleging that Rothen and Muller each held a 50 percent interest in a close corporation, Sea Side Properties Investment CC, through which they were to develop properties at Swakopmund.

It is charged that between 15 January 2003 and 25 March 2004 Rothen paid eight value-added tax cheques that the Ministry of Finance had issued in favour of Sea Side Properties Investment CC into a bank account of a company, Sea Side Properties, of which Rothen was the sole owner, instead of into the close corporation’s bank account. The state is alleging that cheques with a total value of N$1,093 million were paid into the account of Rothen’s company.

Rothen is also accused of having committed theft or fraud by taking N$150 000 that belonged to Sea Side Properties CC and claiming that the money had been due to him and his wife as wages.

Oosthuizen told the judge that according to Rothen the development business of the close corporation was successfully concluded and Muller, as a former member of the close corporation, received the proceeds and profits he was entitled to in terms of an agreement between him and Rothen.

Muller is due to continue with his testimony in the trial today.

Deputy Prosecutor General Ingrid Husselmann is representing the state. Rothen’s trial was at first scheduled to start in September 2008. The trial was delayed, though, when Rothen joined a constitutional challenge against sections of the Criminal Procedure Act, on which the Supreme Court gave a ruling only in April last year.

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