Ondangwa-MVA fraud trial resumes in High Court

21 Aug 2013 07:50
WINDHOEK, 21 AUG (NAMPA) - The trial of six people facing charges of defrauding the Motor- Vehicle Accident Fund (MVA) of more than N.dollars 3,5 million between 2001 and 2005, resumed in the High Court here on Wednesday.
The accused persons include key suspect and prominent Ondangwa-based defence lawyer Arumugam Thambapilai; Timoteus Amutenya Sakeus; Linda Shipalanga; Martin Eriki; Festus Shidume; and George Hatutale.
The trial resumed before Acting High Court Judge AK Simpson here on Wednesday morning, with prominent Windhoek-based defence lawyer, Advocate Louis Botes calling his client and key suspect Thambapilai to the accused stand to give evidence before court in connection with all the activities of motor-vehicle accident issues and related claims that were lodged at his Ondangwa-based law firm (Tambapilai Associates) between February 2001 and September 2005.
The 67-year-old Tambapilai also extensively testified about the Motor-Vehicle Accident Fund Act and other related regulations which deal with motor vehicle accidents and claims.
He further told the court of his responsibilities of 'special power of attorney' as the authorised legal practitioner in the North at the time entrusted to act on behalf of people involved or injured in road accidents (clients) in MVA Fund claims matters.
“With the 'special power of attorney', I was duly authorised as a legal practitioner to investigate the circumstances of the accidents and to establish that the accident or accidents really took place in the North and not in other parts of the country. I also had to make sure that the clients or claimants had all the necessary supporting medical documentation when the claims were being prepared at my law firm office in Ondangwa before these claims are finally submitted to the MVA Fund head office in Windhoek for processing,” Thambapilai explained.
The accused lawyer (Thambapilai) will continue giving his evidence in the trial for the rest of this week after which he will be cross-examined and re-examined by the prosecution representative, State Advocate Ed Marondedze.
According to a summary of substantial facts contained in the charge-sheet, the charges against the group emanate from seven claims that were submitted to the MVA Fund.
Of these, four claims amounting to N.dollars 3,5 million were allegedly paid out by the Fund.
Thambapilai is charged with 16 counts, made up of six charges of fraud, seven counts of forgery and uttering, two counts of theft and a charge of attempting to defeat or obstruct the course of justice.
In a plea explanation provided to Acting Judge Simpson in 2011, Thambapilai, who is the main suspect in the matter, denied having been aware of any misrepresentations that might have been made to the MVA Fund in claims which his law firm prepared on instruction by clients.
He also denied that he at any stage had any intention to defraud the MVA Fund, or anyone else.
In one charge, Thambapilai and Sakeus, one of his co-accused who allegedly lost his right hand due to a snake-bite in 1971, are accused of having put in a claim with the MVA Fund stating that his hand was lost as a result of a road accident on 21 December 1999.
A fraudulent claim of N.dollars 200 000 is alleged to have been lodged with the MVA Fund based on this.
This claim was accepted by the fund and processed, but not paid out in the end, it is alleged.
Shipalanga is charged with a count of fraud, alternatively theft, while Eriki is charged with a count of fraud, alternatively attempted theft and four counts of forgery and uttering.
Shindume is charged with a count of fraud, alternatively theft, a count of theft by conversion, and two counts of forgery and uttering.
Hatutale is charged with a count of fraud, alternatively theft, and two counts of forgery and uttering.
These five accused persons, like Thambapilai, have also pleaded not guilty to the charges levelled against them.
The fraud was allegedly committed from February 2001 to September 2005.
All accused persons are free on bail, with the key suspect, Thambapilai, free on bail of N.dollars 50 000.
Meanwhile, similar charges were withdrawn against Namibian Police officer Onesmus Sheehama, Silas Kandenge, businessman Iyambo Iyambo and married couple Shetunyenga and Elizabeth Ambata Shivute during the trial in 2011, as there was no prima facie evidence to link them to the alleged fraud case.
The trial continues on Thursday.
Windhoek-based defence lawyers comprising Advocate Botes and attorneys Bradley Basson and Jorge Neves are representing the group, acting on the instructions of the Justice Ministry's Directorate of Legal Aid.