By Magreth Nunuhe
Windhoek – The kingpin in the bogus investment, which saw the Social Security Commission (SSC) of Namibia lose R30 million to Avid Investment Corporation, was sentenced to an effective 17 years in jail yesterday.
Nicolaas Josea, 56, who was convicted of defrauding the SSC, was also sentenced to two years imprisonment to be served concurrently for reckless trading or with intent to defraud.
His co-accused got off with much lighter sentences, with three of them being sentenced to pay R60 000 or three years imprisonment, plus a further two years’ suspended imprisonment for a period of five years on condition that the accused are not convicted of fraud during the period of suspension.
The three convicted are Paulus Kapia, a former deputy minister in Local Government and Housing and former Swapo Youth League Secretary General.
Ralph Blaaw, is a former Member of Parliament and president of the Junior Chamber of Commerce of Namibia, while Ines Gases, was an accountant at the time the fraud was committed.
The court could not provide evidence in the case of Kapia, Blaaw and Gases from which it could be inferred that the they knew that funds transferred to Avid would be embezzled.
Blaaw’s wife, Sharon, an admitted legal practitioner, was sentenced to six months or R8000 in the High Court of Namibia “in view of the absolute disregard for her position as director and the reckless signing of resolutions of which the consequences were far reaching, the imposition of imprisonment would be appropriate.”
As for Josea, the court found that from the onset, he was in cahoots with the main perpetrator, the late Lazarus Kandara, with the sole intention to embezzle the SSC investment funds.
Josea and Kandara devised with the assistance of a third person Alan Rosenberg in South Africa, a scheme in order to create the impression that an alleged investment made with Rosenberg was ongoing, whilst it was not – the State pointed out.
A trail into the embezzled fund, found that R14.9 million of the R20 million transferred to Rosenberg was paid back into the private account of Josea.
Josea’s company, Namangol, falsely created a paper trail to give credence to his version about personal loans allegedly made between him and the late Kandara.
The court rejected Josea’s evidence in this regard, and found that his actions amounted to theft (by conversion) of funds in the amount of N$29.5 million.
In sentencing, Judge Christie Liebenberg said that the most aggravating factor against those accused being directors, is that they failed in their duty and should have been more vigilant when dealing with public funds.
“Instead they abdicated their responsibilities to a person not being part of the company who, unknowing to them, had only one thing in mind and that was to hijack the investment and misappropriate the funds,” he said.
Liebenberg said that each accused individually attributed to the misrepresentations made in order to convince the managers of the SSC in awarding the tender to Avid, in circumstances where they had no intention to fulfil assurances and guarantees given by them during the tender process.
In retrospect, the judge said that the accused persons have all suffered the same fate namely, the loss of employment.
“At the time they were prominent figures in society and the loss of high-profile positions, accompanied by their fall from grace must have had some punitive effect over and above the sentences to be imposed. This is a fact the court simply cannot ignore in sentencing,” he said.
The Avid case is one of the most protracted famous fraud cases, which saw the politically connected sentenced convicted of dubious dealings costing the Namibian taxpayer billions.