DIFFICULTIES in finding a Mandarin court interpreter, together with last-minute efforts to limit issues in dispute between the prosecution and defence teams, yesterday saw the start of the High Court trial of former Public Service Commission member Teckla Lameck and two co-accused deferred to tomorrow.
Lameck (52), her business partner, Kongo Mokaxwa (34), and Chinese national Yang Fan (42) appeared before Acting Judge Maphios Cheda in the High Court in Windhoek yesterday. They are due to go on trial on 18 charges, including counts of fraud, money laundering, corruption and contraventions of the Immigration Control Act.
Their trial was scheduled to start with plea proceedings yesterday, but by agreement between the State and the defence this was postponed to tomorrow.
Chief Prosecutor Danie Small told Acting Judge Cheda that a Mandarin interpreter, who is needed to interpret the court proceedings for Yang, was not available yet, but should be on hand by tomorrow.
Small added that the prosecution and the defence teams intended to still meet to try to sort out issues which are not in dispute between them, and to agree on how to handle evidence about which there is no argument between them.
He also informed the judge that it has been suggested that, once the trial starts, the court should be in session only during the morning, with afternoons to be used to consult witnesses.
Senior counsel Gerson Hinda, who is heading the defence team of three lawyers, confirmed the arrangement with the prosecution.
Lameck, Mokaxwa and Yang are charged with fraud and money laundering over an alleged corrupt deal in which Chinese-made security scanning equipment was bought by the Ministry of Finance at a total cost of US$55,3 million (then about N$477 million) in May 2008.
It is alleged that the price of the equipment was inflated to enable the manufacturer, Nuctech, which was being represented by Yang, to pay a “commission” of at least US$12,828 million (N$128,3 million at the exchange rate at that time) to Teko Trading, a close corporation of Lameck and Mokaxwa which had signed an agency agreement with Nuctech.
Lameck and Mokaxwa alone are also accused of having defrauded a Swapo-owned company, Namib Contract Haulage, between December 2006 and June 2009 by getting the company to pay inflated prices for trucks that it was buying in China.
Lameck alone is facing six charges under the Anti-Corruption Act. Those charges are based on an allegation that while she held office as a member of the Public Service Commission - her term came to an end in October last year - she did not have the required consent from President Hifikepunye Pohamba to also do other paid work, such as her involvement in Teko Trading CC.
The three accused are further charged with contraventions of the Immigration Control Act in connection with a work permit which was allegedly issued to Yang in 2007 to allow him to be employed by Namib Contract Haulage, while in fact he was working for Nuctech and later for Teko Trading, the prosecution is charging.
The three accused are set to be represented by a defence team consisting of Hinda, Gerson Narib, and Sisa Namandje.
Small is being assisted by State advocate Jack Eixab.
Acting Judge Cheda is serving a judge of the High Court of Zimbabwe in Bulawayo. He was appointed as an acting judge of the High Court of Namibia to preside over the trial of Lameck, Mokaxwa and Yang.