Suspects in Avid/SSC fraud scam deny allegations

27 May 2014 15:40pm
WINDHOEK, 27 MAY (NAMPA) – The seven people on trial in connection with the N.dollars 30 million Avid Investment and Social Security Commission (SSC) fraud scam, have denied any involvement or knowledge of the missing money.
The seven former Avid Investment directors denied the allegations when they each pleaded “not guilty” to 10 counts of fraud, alternatively theft, corruption and giving false evidence in an inquiry in terms of the Companies' Act at the start of their trial here on Tuesday.
They are Windhoek-based businessman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Namangol Asset Management Company Nico Josea; former Deputy Minister of Works, Transport and Communication Paulus Iilonga Kapia; Avid Investment's Administrative Secretary Inez //Gases; former Acting Secretary-General of the National Youth Council (NYC) Ralph Blaauw and his wife Sharon Blaauw.
The other two suspects are Labour Ministry official and lawyer Otniel Podewiltz, and retired Namibian Defence Force (NDF) Brigadier Mathias Shiweda.
The seven men, in explaining their pleas of ‘not guilty’, all denied the allegations contained in the charge sheet and each challenged the State to prove otherwise.
Accused Kapia told presiding High Court Judge Christie Libenberg that he cannot be held responsible for a crime of fraud by theft, which was allegedly committed by other people.
“I have no knowledge of the missing N.dollars 30 million, which was invested in the Avid Investment Asset Management Company by the Social Security Commission (SSC). There is no legal basis for the State to charge me in this case because the State clearly knows the people who allegedly stole the money and the business entities that defrauded the SSC,” said the former deputy minister.
On her part, //Gases said she was introduced to the Avid Investment by her cousin, the late Lazarus Kandara, who was the chief executive officer of the asset management company.
She told the court that all the business affairs of Avid Investment Company were run by the late Kandara.
Podewiltz said he never attended any board meetings in which the investment of the missing millions was discussed, and has no knowledge of the alleged fraud case.
Both Ralph Blaauw and his wife Sharon Blaauw said they were never directors or shareholders in the Avid Investment Asset Management Company.
Similarly, retired Brigadier Shiweda said he was at no stage a director in the Avid Investment Asset Management Company, and strongly challenged the State to prove each and every allegation contained in the charge sheet against him.
Josea disputed the State's allegation that the missing N.dollars 30 million was given to him or invested through his Namangol Asset Management Company.
“I never dealt with money belonging to the Social Security Commission, and the late Lazarus Kandara did not disclose the origin of the funds he wanted to invest through Namangol Asset Management Company,” said Josea.
All the seven men each told the court that they had never received money or gifts from the late Kandara as the State is alleging.
Gideon Muelder, a former senior manager at the SSC and the former Chief Executive Officer of the SSC Tuli Hivelwa are lined up as the first and second State witnesses to testify in the trial on behalf of the prosecution.
In the matter, the State alleges that the seven suspects were all directors in the little-known Avid Investment Asset Management Company, which allegedly obtained money from the SSC through its links in the ruling Swapo-Party.
In 2005, Avid Investment made headlines when it allegedly acquired N.dollars 30 million from the SSC, allegedly under dubious circumstances.
The money was then apparently invested in an offshore company, but it could later not be accounted for.
The disappearance of the money led to a High Court inquiry before acting Judge Raymond Heathcote in 2005.
Avid Investment CEO, the late Lazarus Kandara, who was believed to be the kingpin in the Avid/SCC saga, was said to have committed suicide while under police escort in front of the Windhoek Police Station during the inquiry.
All the suspects are free on bail of N.dollars 10 000 each.
Deputy Prosecutor-General, Ed Marondedze and State Advocate Cliff Lutibezi are appearing for the prosecution.
Windhoek-based defence lawyers Sisa Namandje, Advocate Richard Metcalfe, Christie Mostert, Werner Boesak and Slysken Makando are defending the seven accused persons.
Trial continues on Wednesday.