THE trial of 12 Angolan citizens and two Namibians accused of having fraudulently claimed tax refunds of more than N$210 million from the Ministry of Finance has started in the Windhoek High Court with the 14 accused denying guilt on all charges.
Following the latest changes to the indictment setting out the charges against the 14, they are being prosecuted on a total of 629 counts, which include charges of fraud, alternatively theft, money laundering, and using documents containing false statements.
The defence lawyers representing 13 of the accused informed acting judge Kobus Miller and assessors John Mandy and Yolande Böttger on Monday that their clients are denying guilt on all of the charges, and would not be giving a plea explanation to the court at this stage. The lawyers also said their clients' defence to the charges would become clear during the trial.
One of the accused, Namibian citizen Noah Naukosho, who is not represented by a lawyer, likewise denied guilt on the 49 counts of fraud, alternatively theft, 53 charges of money laundering, and 49 counts of using documents containing false statements on which he is being prosecuted.
Protesting his innocence, Naukosho said he was not involved in anything connected to the case, and that he was not guilty. He also said he knew the first accused, Mamsy Nuuyoma, because she had been his girlfriend, but that he had no interest in her former place of employment, and never claimed any tax refunds from the Ministry of Finance.
The 14 accused are alleged to have been involved in a scam in which Angolan citizens, according to the state, fraudulently claimed value-added tax refunds totalling N$210,6 million from Namibia's Ministry of Finance during 2014 and 2015.
Nuuyoma, who is a former employee of the company Aveshe Consultancy, which handles VAT refund claims on behalf of the ministry, allegedly played a central role in the scam. She is alleged to have acted in concert with the Angolans charged in the matter when fraudulent VAT refund claims were submitted to Aveshe and then processed.
While fraudulent claims for VAT refunds totalling N$210,6 million were submitted to Aveshe, according to the prosecution's indictment, a total of about N$32,5 million was paid out as a result of the fraud.
Nuuyoma is facing all but four of the 629 counts. The charges against her include 227 counts of fraud and 170 counts of money laundering.
An employee of Aveshe Consultancy, Uaepisa Mukuambi, has been testifying as the state's first witness in the trial on Monday and yesterday, when she guided the court through numerous lever arch files of documentation on which VAT refund claims submitted to Aveshe were based. Mukuambi is due to continue with her testimony today. State advocate Henry Muhongo is representing the state.
Defence lawyers Winnie Christians, Vetu Uanivi, Kalundu Kamwi, Trevor Brockerhoff, Mekumbu Tjiteere and Theo Carolus are representing 13 of the accused.