18 October 2012

Namibia: Clearing Agent to Pay Over N$216 000 for His Crimes

A NAMIBIAN imports clearing agent, Marco van Basten Plaatjies (37), on Tuesday was found guilty in the Swakopmund Regional Court on three of six charges relating to the contravention of the Customs and Excise Act and was fined, with penalties, N$216 156.

In 2008, Plaatjies and another suspect, Elmarine Strauss, were arrested by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), but charges against Strauss were dropped due to a lack of evidence.

On the first count of corruptly using his office or position for gratification under the ACC Act, Plaatjies was found not guilty.

On the second count of unlawfully removing goods (under the Customs and Excise Act), he was sentenced to a fine of N$20 000 or three years in prison.

This count related to an incident in July 2008 where Plaatjies, in Walvis Bay, made a false declaration to the Department of Customs and Excise that certain goods declared on a Bill of Entry, together with a Voucher of Correction, had not been delivered at the port of Walvis Bay, but removed the goods from the bonded warehouse. He pleaded guilty to this.

As for the third count of failure to pay duty under the said Act, Plaatjies on the same day unlawfully failed to pay Value Added Tax (VAT) and Customs Import Duty of N$82 289 due on a container of goods landed at Walvis Bay port from Germany.

For this, Regional Magistrate Gaynor Poulton sentenced Plaatjies to pay a fine of N$8 000 or face two years’ imprisonment, fully suspended for five years on condition that he is not convicted of the same crime and that he pay the outstanding duty.

Both these charges related to a consignment from Germany that was destined for Mokuti Lodge, which Plaatjies allegedly never arrived in Walvis Bay but was delivered at Durban port and therefore had to be transported via road – skipping the duty fees. He pleaded guilty to this too.

He was also found not guilty under the ACC Act for corruptly using false documentation, while on the fifth count, under the VAT Act, he pleaded guilty for failing to pay tax on the amount of N$1 058 672 for a drilling machine imported from Germany.

For this Poulton sentenced him to a three-year prison sentence, suspended for five years on condition that he is not convicted of the same crime and that he pay the tax penalty of N$105 867.

He has until November 16 to pay the penalties.

Poulton said the court was fed up with this type of offence, and that Plaatjies did not set a good example for his colleagues and family and sent a bad message to investors.

She however acknowledged that some of the losses were recovered after he repaid the money.

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