New Era (Windhoek)

17 December 2012

Namibia: Alleged Fraudsters Want Out

The lawyers for Arumugam Thambapilai (65) and his co-accused indicated to the High Court last Thursday that they will apply for a Section 174 discharge when their case resumes on April 22 next year.

A Section 174 discharge application allows an accused person to apply for a discharge after the State closes its case, on the basis that not enough evidence exists.

Thambapilai and Linda Shipalanga (32), Martin Eriki (76), Timoteus Amutenya Sakeus (42), Festus Shindume (36), George Hatutale (62) and Onesmus Sheehama (46) are accused of defrauding the Motor Vehicle Accident Fund to the tune of N$3.5 million.

Thambapilai faces 16 charges consisting of six main charges of fraud, seven counts of forgery and uttering, two counts of theft and a charge of attempting to defeat or obstruct the course of justice. His co-accused are each charged with between one and five counts, with each of them facing at least one charge of fraud.

The accused pleaded not guilty at the start of their trial before Acting Judge A. K. Simpson in 2011.

The charges are based on allegations that Thambapilai lodged fraudulent claims with the MVA Fund, on behalf of clients of his Ondangwa-based law firm, in the period between June 2000 and September 2005.

The charges emanate from seven claims that were submitted to the MVA Fund. Four of these claims were allegedly paid out by the fund in a total amount of N$3.5 million. The others were not paid out.

Thambapilai denied having been aware of any misrepresentations that might have been made to the MVA Fund in claims that his firm prepared "on clients' instructions", in a plea explanation given to the court at the start of the trial.

He said that he and his office relied on information received from clients, or relatives who were acting on their behalf, when his office was asked to prepare claims that were to be lodged with the MVA Fund.

According to Thambapilai, he and the personnel in his office had no way of knowing if any of the instructions they received from the clients or their relatives were false. He denied he at any stage had any intention to defraud the MVA Fund or anyone else.

Charges were already dropped against four of the original accused during 2011.

Deputy Prosecutor General Ed Marondedze appeared on behalf of the State, while Adv. Louis Botes appears on behalf of Thambapilai. The other accused are represented by Bradley Basson, Amupanda Khamanya and Elias Shikongo.

Acting Judge Alwin Simpson is on the bench.

All of the accused remain free on bail until their case resumes.

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