Namibia: Judge Convicts 13 in Vat Scam Trial

A NAMIBIAN woman and 11 Angolans have been found guilty on a multitude of fraud charges in connection with a value-added tax refunds scam which cost the government more than N$30 million.

Nearly two years after the start of their trial in the Windhoek High Court, Namibian Mamsy Nuuyoma and 11 Angolans on Monday heard that acting judge Kobus Miller has convicted them on numerous counts of fraud.

A former boyfriend of Nuuyoma, Noah Naukosho, and one of the 11 Angolan accused, Joao Manuel dos Santos, were found guilty on one count of money laundering as well.

Nuuyoma has been convicted on 209 charges of fraud, involving false claims for value-added tax refunds totalling nearly N$210 million submitted to Nuuyoma's former employer, the company Aveshe Consulting, which was handling VAT refund claims for the Ministry of Finance during 2014 and 2015.

A total of about N$31,6 million was paid out on those fraudulent claims.

The VAT refund claims were based on purchases of goods made by the Angolans in Namibia, after which they purportedly exported the goods to Angola and as a result were entitled to claim back the VAT they had paid in Namibia.

The state alleged that forged documentation - including invoices from retailers and customs declaration forms - were used by the accused to claim VAT refunds which they were not entitled to receive.

In the judgement that he delivered on Monday, Miller found that the state proved the 11 charged Angolans made misrepresentations to Aveshe Consulting and the Ministry of Finance, and that Nuuyoma played an instrumental role in processing their claims to the point that refund payments to them were approved and made.

Miller convicted Dos Santos on 49 counts of fraud, involving false VAT refund claims totalling some N$172 million which he submitted to Aveshe Consulting from January to November 2015.

Dos Santos received VAT refund payments totalling N$13,2 million from the Ministry of Finance as a result of the false claims he submitted to Aveshe. He claimed that he had bought goods valued at N$172 million in Namibia and exported them to Angola from December 2014 to November 2015.

One of the 11 Angolans, Zimutu Pembele, received N$4,8 million in VAT refund payments, after he submitted claims for refunds totalling about N$11,3 million. He has been found guilty on 24 counts of fraud.

Fellow Angolan Nelson Aurelio Miapa, who claimed VAT refunds of some N$4,6 million and received about N$3 million from those claims, was convicted on 22 charges of fraud.

Miller, who presided over the trial with assessors John Mandy and Yolande Böttger, recounted that the court heard that forged invoices - some of which had also been used months earlier in false VAT refund claims submitted to Aveshe - were found in the residence which Nuuyoma and Naukosho shared in Windhoek when investigators of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) searched the premises on 1 December 2015.

Those documents tied Nuuyoma to fraudulent claims which had been submitted by Pembele and Dos Santos, Miller noted.

Naukosho and Dos Santos were found guilty of money laundering in connection with payments totalling N$2,53 million which Dos Santos made into a bank account of Naukosho during 2015. Miller rejected the two men's claims that they did not know each other.

Naukosho told the court during the trial that he did not know about Nuuyoma's activities.

An ACC investigator also testified during the trial that Dos Santos told him he had made the payments into Naukosho's account for Nuuyoma's benefit.

Nuuyoma and three of the Angolans had been on bail until Monday, when their bail was cancelled following the delivery of the court's verdict.

Naukosho's bail has been extended.

The matter has been postponed to 29 March for a presentence hearing to take place.

Deputy prosecutor general Henry Muhongo is representing the state.

The accused are represented by defence lawyers Winnie Christians, Trevor Brockerhoff, Kalundu Kamwi, Marvin Katuvesirauina, Mekumbu Tjiteere and Theo Carolus.

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