Three Angolans convicted of money laundering and entering Namibia illegally after the police at Otjiwarongo found more than N$2 million in cash in their car have lost the money and the vehicle as a result of an appeal judgement delivered in the Windhoek High Court.
Otjiwarongo Regional Court magistrate Marilize du Plessis, who convicted Angolans Feliciano Abilio Jano Miguel, Joaquim Antonio and Elias Francisco Sossingo on the two charges in February last year, correctly found that the state proved its case against the three men beyond reasonable doubt, acting judge Johanna Salionga said in an appeal judgement that was handed down in the High Court last week.
Acting judge Salionga was not persuaded by the reasons given for the late filing of an appeal by the three men against their conviction, with the result that she refused to condone the late filing.
However, she upheld an appeal by the state against the magistrate's decision not to order the forfeiture of N$2,02 million in cash that the three men were transporting when their car was searched at a police roadblock near Otjiwarongo on 23 September 2015, or to order the forfeiture of the car in which the three were travelling.
Setting aside the magistrate's decision on the forfeiture of the cash and car, acting judge Salionga declared the N$2,02 million and the vehicle, which had been used in the commission of an offence, as forfeited to the state.
At the end of their trial in the Otjiwarongo Regional Court, Miguel, Antonio and Sossingo were each sentenced to pay a fine of N$150 000 or serve a one-year prison term on the count of money laundering on which they were found guilty. They went to prison to serve their jail terms after they were unable to pay the fines.
On a charge of having entered Namibia without presenting themselves to an immigration officer, they were each also sentenced to a fine of N$2 000 or six months' imprisonment.
They were arrested and charged after police officers found N$2,02 million in total in the car in which they arrived at a police roadblock near Otjiwarongo. The money was found under the back seat of the car, and hidden in items of clothing.
The men's explanation for the cash was that they were money brokers who did business on the street market in Angola, and that they had exchanged Angolan currency for Namibia dollars in southern Angola and at Oshikango.
Acting judge Salionga noted that the three men knew there was a limit of N$150 000 on the amount of money someone was allowed to take out of Angola. She also commented that the way in which the money was hidden in the car was an indication that they were aware of the illegality of their conduct. Their explanations that they hid the money because they were afraid of being robbed were unbelievable and could not be true, she said.
On the second charge, she also noted there was evidence that the three men legally entered Namibia from Angola on 15 September 2015, that they went back to Angola two days later without having their passports stamped at the border, and that they again entered Namibia on 22 September 2015 without having their passports stamped by immigration officers. The fact that they evaded immigration and customs officials in Namibia was an indication that they were engaged in illegal activities in Namibia in the process of acquiring the money eventually found in their possession, the judge reasoned.
Judge Alfred Siboleka agreed with her judgement.
Defence lawyer Sisa Namandje represented the three Angolans during their trial and appeal. Deputy prosecutor general Ed Marondedze represented the state in the appeal.