Namibia: Nghipunya Takes Release Fight to High Court

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23 September 2020

Suspended CEO of the State-owned National Fishing Corporation of Namibia (Fishcor) Mike Nghipunya has approached the High Court in an attempt to be released from police custody.

Nghipunya is appealing the decision of the lower court to refuse him bail in July, stating the said court misdirected itself in law and fact in its finding that his release on bail will not be in the interest of the public or administration of justice.

In his appeal to be released on bail, Nghipunya states that the court erred in judgement, as there was no evidence presented in court indicating that he will interfere with investigations or that he is a flight risk. Furthermore, the court over-emphasised the interest of justice while overlooking the presumption of innocence till proven guilty in the Bill of Rights, Nghipunya

argued.

In July, deputy chief magistrate Ingrid Unengu denied Nghipunya bail, stating that although he did not abscond during the three months of knowing that he was a person of interest, his circumstances have changed since then and he will be likely tempted to abscond and thus it would be too risky to release him on bail.

Furthermore, the court could not exclude the possibility that he will not interfere with investigations as during the bail hearing, he admitted to being a 'yes man' when he followed instructions from his co-accused and former boss James Hatuikulipi and former fisheries minister Bernhard Esau to make the questionable payments.

Unengu indicated that the State managed to prove that there is a strong prima facie case when it linked the alleged offences to Nghipunya. Nghipunya was arrested by the Anti-Corruption Commission of Namibia (ACC) in February, in connection to the N$75.6 million that was syphoned out of Fishcor between August 2014 and December 2019. He is charged alongside Esau, former minister of justice Sacky Shanghala, James Hatuikulipi, Esau's son-in-law Tamson Hatuikulipi and Pius Mwatelulo.

On the charge of corruptly using office for gratification, the prosecution is alleging that Nghipunya alongside Esau, Shanghala and James used their offices or positions in a public body to obtain gratification to obtain N$75.6 million that was paid to them or entities of their choice between August 2014 and December 2019.

On the charge of fraud, the prosecution is alleging that Nghipunya together with Esau, Shanghala and James defrauded Fishcor and government by channelling payments totalling N$75.6 million to themselves or entities of their choice.

The money allegedly went through Celax Investment Number One and the law firm De Klerk, Horn & Coetzee Inc. The appeal hearing is scheduled to be heard by a full bench of judges from the 15 to 16 October. In his bid, Nghipunya is represented by defence lawyer Milton Engelbrecht. The State is represented by deputy prosecutor general Cliff Lutibezi.

mamakali@nepc.com.na

Wants freedom... Suspended Fishcor CEO Mike Nghipunya.

Photo: Emmency Nuukala

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