10 September 2012

Namibia: Final Arguments in Corruption Trial

FORMER National Assembly Secretary Nama Goabab and parliamentary accountant Abraham John George should both be found guilty of charges under the Anti-Corruption Act, the prosecution argued in their trial in the High Court in Windhoek on Friday.

Danie Small, the Chief Prosecutor in the Office of the Prosecutor-General, asked Judge Marlene Tommasi to convict Goabab on three counts of the corrupt use of an office or position for gratification, and to find George guilty on two of those charges, at the end of his arguments on the verdict that the judge will have to deliver in the two men's trial.

Defence lawyers Lucius Murorua, representing Goabab, and Zagrys Grobler, representing George, are scheduled to present their arguments to the court today.

In written arguments already filed with the court the two lawyers have indicated that they would be asking Judge Tommasi to find the two accused men not guilty.

Goabab (55) and George (51) are jointly charged with two main counts of corruptly using an office or position for gratification, which is an offence under the Anti-Corruption Act of 2003. These charges are based on allegations that they had rented two cars at Government's cost for Goabab's private use during March and April 2007. The total cost of the vehicle rentals is alleged to have been N$23 552,20, of which N$18 497,20 was actually paid by the National Assembly.

Goabab paid this amount back to the National Assembly four days after he and George had been arrested by the Anti-Corruption Commission in June 2007.

Goabab alone is also charged with a third count in connection with allegations that he had unlawfully used a Government car on May 25 2007 while he was receiving a motor vehicle allowance as part of his salary.

Goabab and George pleaded not guilty to all charges at the start of their trial in March 2010.

Goabab told the court last week that the arrangement all along was that he would pay the money which had been spent on the rentals back to Government. He also claimed that he had a discretion to decide to use a Government vehicle for work-related purposes while his private car was not available.

George testified in his own defence that he was only following instructions from Goabab when he helped to arrange the two rentals and the use of National Assembly funds to pay for the second of those.

The first rental was never paid, the court has heard.

Small told Judge Tommasi on Friday that he was accepting that it had been Goabab's declared intention from the beginning that he would repay the National Assembly for the two rentals. However, Small stressed, what had taken place was the use of public funds for private purposes.

The section of the Anti-Corruption Act under which the two men are charged, reads: "A public officer commits an offence who, directly or indirectly, corruptly uses his or her office or position in a public body to obtain any gratification, whether for the benefit of himself or herself or any other person."

Goabab and George, who is still employed as Chief Accountant with the National Assembly, were both public officers, Small argued. Goabab's claim in his testimony last week that he was not a public servant when he was the Secretary of the National Assembly was an "absurd notion", Small commented.

He argued that Goabab had obtained gratification when public funds were used to pay for rental cars for his private use, even if it was his intention to later repay Government. George had assisted Goabab to obtain that gratification, Small also argued.

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