Namibia: N$23m Legal Showdown Begins... Law Society Accuses Namandje of Protecting Self, Not Clients

The Law Society of Namibia (LSN) says prominent lawyer Sisa Namandje's refusal to open records to his trust account is done merely to protect himself and his conduct and not his clients as he has claimed.

The LSN applied to the High Court for a search and seizure warrant to allow it to inspect the records of Namandje's law firm Sisa Namandje & Co Inc trust account in relation to suspect transactions amounting to N$23 million.

Namandje has allegedly refused to cooperate with the law society, citing attorney-client privilege.

LSN director Margaretha Steinmann in her answering affidavit said Namandje has invoked the attorney-client privilege to protect himself and prevent an inspection into the records of the firm's trust account.

"It is impermissible for the first respondent (Namandje) to claim attorney-client privilege, which is the client's right, in order to obfuscate his own conduct or advance his own personal agenda, which, in this case, is to resist the applicant's access to the second respondent's (Sisa Namandje & Co Inc) records by any means necessary," stated the LSN director.

Steinmann explained that the purpose of the application is to determine if Namandje and his directors contravened the trust account requirements.

According to court documents, the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) brought to the attention of the law society their concerns about suspicious transactions involving Namandje law firm's trust account that they picked up.

Alleged dubious transactions

The transactions in question involve N$15 million paid on 1 December 2015 from State-owned fishing company, the National Fishing Corporation of Namibia (Fishcor), into Namandje's trust account.

From this amount, Namandje or his directors allegedly made a payment amounting to N$2.1 million into the trust account of Van Der Westhuizen & Greeff on 3 December 2015.

A payment of N$7.6 million was made on 3 December 2015 to Baby Face Investments CC, a company owned by businessman Vaino Nghipondoka.

Again, on 3 December 2015, N$5.2 million was paid to Gwashihwemwa Family Trust, where Swapo politician Armas Amukwiyu is a trustee.

The total of the above outward transfers comes to N$14.9 million, leaving a balance of N$60 000.

On 4 August 2017, Namandje's firm trust received N$2.5 million from Fishcor.

From this amount, FIC did not observe any large payouts.

The third transaction of concern occurred on 28 August 2017, where N$5 million was paid to Namandje's firm trust by Mermaria Seafood Namibia (Pty) Ltd. Following this transaction, a payout of N$4 million was directed to the account of one Gabriel Kandjengo on 28 August 2017.

Another payment of N$1.1 million was made to a Nedbank home loan account of Namandje.

Another payment of N$1.4 million was deposited from Namandje's trust account on 7 September 2017 to lawyer Sacky Kadhila-Amoomo.

The law society reiterated the transactions were recorded in the manner that conceals the real depositor of the funds.

"Based on all of the above, I have reason to believe that Mr Namandje and or the other directors at Sisa Namandje & Co Inc may have engaged in money laundering activities using the firm's trust account, and in the course thereof have contravened the requirements for the keeping of trust accounts," said Steinmann.

In his defence, Namandje in his answering affidavit rubbished claims that he has been uncooperative with the law society.

He claims that he has on numerous occasions sought to meet with the council to clarify and respond to the allegations but his attempts were rejected.

Namandje recently stated in his affidavit he was in the process of finalising a comprehensive statement, which he will hand over to the Anti-Corruption Commission.

"I deny that there was anything unlawful, irregular or untoward about the payments referred to in these paragraphs. While I may not discuss the nature of the instructions and the purpose of the transfer, I must point out that every cent I have received was in respect of payment for rendering of legal services," explained Namandje.

The hearing for the application is scheduled to take place today in the Windhoek High court.

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