23 July 2009

Namibia: Lameck, Co-Accused to Focus On Assets Fight

THE three arrested key figures in a case of alleged corruption around a contract for the provision of Chinese-made security X-ray scanners to the Namibian Government, chose to forego a bail application yesterday so that they could instead concentrate on fighting a High Court battle over the freezing of their assets under the Prevention of Organised Crime Act.

Public Service Commissioner Teckla Lameck, her business partner, Kongo Mokaxwa, and an alleged business associate of theirs, Chinese national Yang Fan, were scheduled to make a second appearance in the Windhoek Magistrate's Court on a charge of fraud, four counts under the Anti-Corruption Act, and a charge of bribery yesterday.

Their case had been postponed for a first time some two weeks ago, with yesterday then set as the starting date for a bail application by them.

Lameck, Mokaxwa and Yang were absent from the court when their case was called before Magistrate Gerrit van Pletzen, though.

Defence lawyer Sisa Namandje, who is now representing all three of them, told the Magistrate that a restraint order over his clients' assets had been obtained by the Prosecutor General on July 6, and that the return date of this order is tomorrow.

He said he had been requested to prepare documents to oppose the order that had been granted.

While it was important to have a bail application heard, a hearing yesterday would have hampered the preparation of the documents for opposing the restraint order in the High Court, Namandje said.

He told the Magistrate that because his clients did not want a hearing on the restraint order in the High Court to be delayed, they have instructed him to ask for a postponement of their bail application to Tuesday next week.

Namandje added that it might be wise for the State to use the delay to finalise their investigation of the case so long.

Lameck (48), Mokaxwa (30) and Yang (39) were arrested two weeks ago, after the Prosecutor General had obtained Namibia's first ever court order in terms of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act to restrain the three charged suspects and other parties from dealing in assets allegedly tainted by the proceeds of crime.

It is that court order, issued by Judge President Petrus Damaseb at a nighttime hearing at which none of the three suspects were present, that is in effect until tomorrow.

Sources indicated yesterday that Namandje is instructing South African senior counsel Jeremy Gauntlett and Windhoek lawyer Raymond Heathcote to represent Lameck, Yang and Mokaxwa in the High Court tomorrow.

Another highly rated South African senior counsel, Geoff Budlender, is set to represent the Prosecutor General.

If the matter is argued tomorrow, it could result in the first courtroom testing of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act, which has been in operation only since May 5.

In the case in which the restraint order in terms of the Act was granted, the court was informed that Yang was the African representative of Nuctech Company, a Chinese company that manufactures X-ray security scanning equipment.

The Ministry of Finance and Nuctech, represented by Yang, signed an agreement in May last year.

In terms of the agreement, Nuctech had to deliver X-ray inspection systems for cargo containers, vehicles and baggage to the Ministry of Finance at a total cost of about US$55,34 million.

The Finance Ministry had to pay US$12,828 million to Nuctech from its own resources, while the rest of the money to be paid would have been provided under a concessional loan facility from the Chinese government.

It is claimed that the Finance Ministry transferred US$12,828 million (the equivalent of about N$127,5 million at the time) to Nuctech at the end of February this year.

Early in March Teko Trading CC, a close corporation of which Lameck and Mokaxwa are the sole members, invoiced Nuctech for consulting services it claimed to have performed with regard to the contract.

Finance Ministry Permanent Secretary Calle Schlettwein has however stated that Teko Trading was never involved in the contract or its negotiation, the court has been informed.

Between March 11 and 12, Nuctech transferred a total of over N$42,061 million - the equivalent of some US$4,229 million - to an account of Teko Trading, it is claimed.

By June 2, Teko Trading's account had been emptied again.

The main beneficiaries of the money paid out of its account were Lameck, who received some N$9,39 million, Mokaxwa, who received N$8 million, and Yang, who received over N$16,8 million.

Lameck, Mokaxwa and Yang are alleged to have gone on a spending spree after the money landed in their accounts. All of the identified assets acquired in this process are however now under restraint - in effect frozen - in terms of the order given on July 6.

These assets include bank accounts, fixed property like farms and houses, and various cars bought or paid off by them after they had received the money from the Teko Trading account.

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