New Era (Windhoek)

17 October 2012

Namibia: Clearing Agent Receives Hefty Fine

Swakopmund — Walvis Bay resident, Marco Van Basten Plaatjies (37) who is accused of defrauding Customs and Excise of at least N$1 million yesterday received a hefty fine of N$215 000 after he pleaded guilty to contravening the Anti-Corruption Act in Walvis Bay in 2008.

Plaaitjies faced three charges under the Anti-Corruption Act, including the failure to pay duty charges to Customs and Excise, and the failure to make VAT payments, as well as the removal of goods under false pretences. Plaaitjies who operates as a clearing and forwarding agent was arrested in October, 2008 by ACC agents at Walvis Bay in connection with contravening Section 35 of the Anti-Corruption Act and fraud involving N$1 million paid by one of his clients as VAT.

His client imported drilling equipment on two occasions, between September 11 and 29, 2008 and wanted to clear the imports himself at customs, but he was however advised by the head of customs to make use of Plaatjies instead trading under Sunset Brokers. With regard to the first consignment of September 17, 2008, VAT to the amount of N$173 000 was subsequently paid over.

The client was issued with copies of the customs forms as proof of payment and the goods were released. When the client imported some more drilling equipment the VAT due was N$1 058 672.17 which he paid into the account of Plaaitjies.

He cleared the second consignment by fraudulently obtaining a copy of the release order of the first consignment creating the impression that the VAT was paid over.

It was only after ten days after the imported goods were released that the client discovered that the VAT documents of the first imports were used for the second imports and the N$1 million was in fact not paid over. The matter was reported to the ACC and after investigations were carried out Plaaitjies was arrested in October, 2008.

During his sentencing in the Swakopmund Regional Court, Plaaitjies was ordered by magistrate, Gaynor Poulton, to pay a fine of N$116 000 before the court closed yesterday.

The rest should be settled by November 16 at the latest or Plaaitjies could be sent to jail for three years.

On the first count Plaaitjies was fined N$20 000 or three years imprisonment.

On count two, he was fined N$8 000 or two years imprisonment, as well as a two-year suspended sentence on condition that he is not convicted of the same offence again.

He was also ordered to pay N$ 82 000 to the Ministry of Finance.

In total he needs to pay N$215 000 before November 16, 2012.

According to Poulton, both the State and his defence agreed on a fine rather than jail term for Plaaitjies since he is a first-time offender at the age of 37. She also said that the State acknowledges the fact that he was a father of eight children and has been married for 11 years.

"You are self-employed with 12 employees that also depend on you, however you showed elements of dishonesty and self-enrichment which is the order of the day. Newspapers report daily about such behaviour. It is clear that your act was greed and self-enrichment driven. The fact that you misused your knowledge, has sent out a bad image to investors," Poulton said.

"The court is clearly fed-up with this kind of offence and does not encourage it. You acted in an irresponsible manner, which means that you did not set a good example for your partner and children," Poulton said.

She further said that most of the losses incurred from his acts were already recovered as he already repaid some of the monies hence he was only given a fine. "This should however serve as a stern warning for you and other offenders," she warned.

Plaaijties was represented by Advocate Gerson Hinda, while Prosecutor, Hermine Apollus represented the State.

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