Namibia: Theft Suspect Who Blamed 'Witch Doctor' Denied Bail

14 September 2021

AMALIA Akwaake, one of the two women charged in connection with the disappearance of N$1,1 million from Standard Bank Arandis in May, was denied bail on Friday.

Swakopmund magistrate Nelao Brown dismissed Akwaake's application, mostly on the grounds that the investigation is still ongoing, and that the missing money is yet to be recovered.

Akwaake, a resident of Ondangwa, was arrested on 18 May, about two weeks after Arandis bank manager Engelborg Strauss was arrested.

Preliminary indications were that Strauss allegedly took N$800 000 from the bank's safe and gave it to an unknown person who had waited at the Arandis turnoff on the B2 highway.

Later that day, the unknown person allegedly directed her to deposit an additional N$306 000 into a Bank Windhoek account, details of which were sent to her via SMS.

Strauss allegedly then made the deposit.

Akwaake reportedly withdrew the money from the Bank Windhoek branch at Oshakati, believing it was part of a plan by a witch doctor named 'Mama Lala', whom Akwaake claimed to have been in contact with to help her get rid of bad luck.

Public prosecutor Johannes Shangadi argued there was evidence that suggested Akwaake may be 'Mama Lala', and that she knows where the money was left.

He said cellphone numbers and records point to the possibility that Akwaake orchestrated the theft, and was just using 'Mama Lala' as an unidentifiable scapegoat.

Shangadi feared Akwaake would dispose of the money if granted bail, and would therefore interfere with the investigation, which would not be in the interest of the administration of justice.

In defence of Akwaake, her lawyer Nathan Knittle argued that, considering his client's testimony and that of Strauss - that both were in touch with a female named Mama Lala via cellphone with a similar number and that both were threatened that their families would get hurt if they said anything about the financial demands and transactions - they were in fact being extorted by an external suspect, who may be part of a syndicate.

Knittle said considering that all the facts have not been established yet, and that cellphone records still have to be inspected, keeping Akwaake behind bars would not be in the interest of the public or the administration of justice.

He said Akwaake has cooperated with the police from the start.

Akwaake told the court she believes she had been hoodwinked by 'Mama Lala', and that the money could have been stolen by the witch doctor.

She denied orchestrating the theft, or that she was 'Mama Lala'.

Brown said there was evidence that could implicate Akwaake, even though she denies her involvement, and therefore investigations must be allowed to continue without possible interference.

She dismissed the application, and the matter is set to continue on 29 September

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