2 July 2018

Namibia: Guilty Pleas Mooted in Vat Fraud Case

Three Angolan citizens facing charges of fraud and money laundering over their alleged involvement in a massive value-added tax refund scam that cost the Ministry of Finance close to N$35 million are considering pleading guilty.

Defence lawyers representing the three Angolans - Joaquim Pedro Espanhol, Eugenio Pio Do Amaral Gourgel, and Paulino Manuel Natal - informed Judge President Petrus Damaseb during a pretrial hearing in the Windhoek High Court on Friday that their clients have indicated that they might admit guilt.

State advocate Henry Muhongo also told the Judge President he and the defence lawyers would meet this week to discuss the terms of the pleas of the accused who want to plead guilty.

In the meantime, the case in which the three Angolans, 13 of their compatriots and two Namibians are charged with a total of 512 counts, has been postponed to 16 July for another pretrial hearing.

The state is alleging that 15 of the 18 accused fraudulently claimed VAT refunds totalling N$210,6 million from the Ministry of Finance from May 2014 to December 2015. The total amount actually paid out to the 15 Angolans alleged to have fraudulently claimed VAT refunds is about N$34,8 million.

The prosecution alleges that 16 of the 18 accused were involved in the use of forged tax invoices, VAT claim forms and customs documents to claim VAT refunds from the Ministry of Finance through the company Aveshe Consultancy, which handles VAT refund claims on behalf of the ministry.

The refund claims were alleged to have been based on false information that goods had been bought in Namibia and then exported, entitling the buyers to a refund of the VAT paid on the goods.

A former employee of Aveshe Consultancy, Mamsy Nuuyoma (30), is alleged to have acted in concert with 15 of the Angolans charged in the matter when fraudulent VAT refund claims were submitted to Aveshe and then processed.

Nuuyoma is due to face 223 counts of fraud, one charge of money laundering, and one charge of defeating or obstructing the course of justice when she and her co-accused go on trial.

One of the Angolans, Joao Manuel dos Santos, has been charged with 62 counts of fraud and 62 counts of money laundering.

The state alleges that he, with the assistance of Nuuyoma, submitted fraudulent claims for VAT refunds totalling N$172,5 million to Aveshe from January to November 2015. Of those claims, about N$13,4 million was allegedly paid out to Dos Santos.

One of the other Angolans facing prosecution, Lucio Jose Cazembe, is alleged to have received N$7,2 million in fraudulently claimed VAT refunds. Cazembe is charged with 56 counts of fraud and 56 counts of money laundering.

The state alleges that Espanhol received close to N$89 700 in fraudulently claimed VAT refunds after submitting claims for refunds totalling about N$947 400.

Natal and Gourgel, however, did not receive any VAT refunds, although Natal is alleged to have fraudulently claimed refunds totalling N$230 844 and Gourgel allegedly claimed fraudulent refunds totalling N$90 850.

One of the 18 accused, Angolan Paulo Kiala, absconded after he was granted bail of N$50 000 in March 2016.

Espanhol and Natal have been in custody since their arrest at the end of November 2015. Gourgel was granted bail of N$10 000 in March 2016.

Eight of the 18 indicted persons are in police custody.

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