21 January 2013

Namibia: Criminal Assets Worth Millions Seized

CRIME-TAINTED assets worth more than N$4,5 million have already been forfeited to the State through the use of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act, Prosecutor General Martha Imalwa revealed last week.

In an address at the official opening of the High Court for 2013 in Windhoek on Wednesday, Imalwa announced that her office has so far successfully obtained forfeiture orders from the High Court which have resulted in about N$2,4 million being deposited into the Criminal Assets Recovery Fund, which was created in terms of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act (POCA).

A forfeiture order in respect of an additional amount of N$2,13 million has also been obtained by her office, but that money would be paid directly to a company which has suffered a loss as a result of the crime committed against it in that case, Imalwa said.

In addition to the assets with a total value of more than N$4,5 million which have already been ordered forfeited to the State, the PG has also obtained orders for the preservation of assets valued at about N$8,7 million, she added.

POCA, which is aimed at combating organised crime, money laundering and criminal gang activities, and at recovering the proceeds of unlawful activities, came into operation in May 2009.

Imalwa remarked that the implementation of Namibia's laws dealing with money laundering and the forfeiture of property derived from criminal gang activities is still in its early stages. The figures cited by her however show that substantial progress has already been made in using POCA to strip alleged offenders of the proceeds of their unlawful activities.

In terms of POCA, money in the Criminal Assets Recovery Fund may be allocated by Cabinet to Namibia's law enforcement agencies, or to give assistance to witnesses and victims of crime.

Imalwa also said she has observed an "ever increasing incidence of corruption cases" in Namibia's courts.

"I do believe that it would not be an over-exaggeration to state that the occurrence of these cases has become an epidemic," she said.

She suggested that the Magistrates' Commission should realise that there is a need to set up specialised courts to deal with cases of corruption, commercial crimes and gender-based violence. That in turn would require specialised training for magistrates to preside over such cases, she said.

Imalwa further revealed that 825 criminal trials were completed in Namibia's Regional Courts during 2011. Of these cases, 532 ended in accused persons being convicted. The Regional Courts had 2 125 cases on their rolls during 2011, she said.

During 2012, the Regional Courts had 1 421 cases on their rolls, and 492 trials were finalised, Imalwa said. Of these trials, 321 ended in convictions.

Looking at lower court statistics it is clear that the courts continue to battle with a backlog of cases, she said.

She said her office has put measures in place to work with the Legal Aid Directorate of the Ministry of Justice, the Magistrates" Commission and investigative agencies to try to address the problem of court backlogs as a matter of urgency.

A shortage of courtrooms and lack of personnel is a major concern to her office, and the Ministry of Justice is asked to urgently pay attention to that situation in order to improve the delivery of justice in Namibia, she said.

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