A FORMER manager at insurance company Santam Namibia denied in the High Court in Windhoek yesterday that she had been responsible for alleged fraud or theft committed against her former employer between 2005 and 2008.
"No, I did not," Esmereel Homses answered when her defence lawyer, Sisa Namandje, asked her if she committed any fraud against Santam Namibia while employed by the company.
She gave the same answer when Namandje asked her if she had received any money as a result of alleged fictitious claims which were lodged with Santam Namibia and paid out by the company while she was in charge of the legal department.
Homses (34) was testifying in her own defence, before Judge Alfred Siboleka, in a trial in which she is charged with 29 counts of fraud.
Homses is accused of having defrauded Santam Namibia, or having stolen a total of N$1,149 million from the company, between June 2005 and January 2008.
The alleged crimes are claimed to have been committed when claims for insurance payments were lodged with the company in the name of fictitious claimants, and these claims were then paid out by Santam.
Homses informed the court in a plea explanation at the start of her trial that she relied on information that came to her office and that had been provided by claimants or colleagues on the occasions that she recommended or authorised the payment of claims.
She told Judge Siboleka yesterday that after joining Santam Namibia as manager of the legal department in August 2004 she was informed that a clerk in the department had previously been convicted in connection with a subsistence and travel expenses scam.
Her view was that her colleague had redeemed herself and deserved to be given the benefit of the doubt, she said.
Her colleague and another clerk in the department however later left Santam Namibia when both of them were dismissed because of fraud, Homses said.
She said the clerks in the department that she headed were responsible for the contents of the files of individual claims which landed on her desk.
There were times when she shared her computer password with some of her colleagues, and both clerks who were subsequently dismissed have confirmed during the trial that they also knew her password, Homses said.
One of the State witnesses who testified during the trial, Tuhafeni Francisco, told the court that she had received a phone call from Homses, who asked her for her bank account details because she wanted to use the account to have money deposited into.
Francisco said Homses later told her to meet a man at the bank, and that the man then withdrew some N$50 000 from her account, gave her N$500 for the use of her account, and left with the money.
Said Homses about Francisco's testimony yesterday: "You know, it's one of those things that makes you wonder who is who."
She said she knew Francisco only from their primary school days, and that she had bumped into her again in Windhoek after many years of having no contact. They then exchanged contact details, Homses said.
She testified that she made a phone call to Francisco after she had seen Francisco's name on a claim file which landed before her, but where all of her details were not complete. She called Francisco to get the missing information from her, she said.
She would have had to be really dumb or stupid to have used the bank account of someone she was not even close friends with, Homses said.
The case continues today.