Josea the biggest loser
Accused walk free, maintain innocence
I did not touch the N$30 million, says Kapia
Will State appeal judgment?
Namibia’s first high profile fraud case in which seven people were accused of embezzling N$30 million from the State was concluded yesterday, with only one of the accused being sent to jail.
High Court Judge Christie Liebenberg’s final verdict came as a surprise to many who had waited for 13 years for this day to come. The evidence was conclusive in most cases, money exchanged hands and a conspiracy network on how to move the money from State accounts into the private bank accounts of some of the accused were well-documented.
At the end of the judgment, relatives and close associates of the accused persons were undoubtedly the ones celebrating the outcome, considering the fact that there was widespread expectations that the septet would serve some jail time.
While the accused persons walked off, taxpayers have to make peace with the fact that the State did not recover the majority of the embezzled funds after it failed to recover N$19 million.
Despite the accused persons owning a vast network of assets, Judge Christie Liebenberg refused to entertain the compensation order sought by Social Security Commission on the basis of it being “late”.
The accused persons were jointly and severally charged with eleven counts ranging from fraud, alternatively, theft; several contraventions of the Companies Act of 1973; a contravention of Ordinance 2 of 1928; and a contravention of the Anti-Corruption Act, 2003. At the close of the State’s case, all the accused applied for discharge under Section 174 of the Criminal Procedure Act 51 of 1977 (CPA), which was met with limited success. The accused persons namely Paulus Kapia, Ralph Blaauw, Inez /Gâses, Sharon Blaauw and Nico Josea who all pleaded not guilty in 2014 were earlier this year found guilty of fraud and reckless conduct respectively with Josea being found guilty of theft by conversion, reckless or fraudulent conduct of business by Liebenberg.
Liebenberg sentenced Josea to 17 years imprisonment while Paulus Kapia, Ralph Blaauw and Inez /Gâses were each given the choice to either pay a fine of N$60 000 or spend three years in prison. Sharon Blaauw, who is said to have signed off documents without reading them was also sentenced to either pay N$8000 or spend six months in jail.
Liebenberg during his judgement further noted that Kapia, /Gâses, Sharon and Ralph Blaauw’s sentences were reduced by fact they were not directly responsible for loss of SSC’s N$30m investment. However, Liebenberg highlighted that evidence has shown that Josea and the late Lazarus Kandara conspired to embezzle the N$30 million and did not plan to invest it as claimed.
In 2005, it was alleged that the money transferred from SSC to Avid Investment Corporation owned by the late Lazarus Kandara was instead transferred to Namangol Investments.
Namangol Investments was owned by Nico Josea. Out of the N$ 30 Million, N$ 14.9 Million had landed in Josea’s personal bank account which he allegedly kept as his own and transferred N$20 million to an Alan Rosenberg in Johannesburg.
Josea, during investigation claimed that he did not know about the money that was transferred. In May, Liebenberg this year rejected Josea’s claims and noted that evidence left him with no doubt that Kandara conspired to steal the money. Liebenberg also found Josea to have been a co-perpetrator in the theft from the beginning.
Kapia, the Blaauw’s and /Gâses are said to have played a role in trying to persuade managers of the Social Security Commission to invest N$30 million with Avid Investment Corporation. However the court found that the four did so unknowingly that the money was to be embezzled.
Therefore Liebenberg, noted that imprisonment was not necessary for Kapia, Ralph and Sharon Blaauw as well as /Gâses. In Josea’s case, Liebenberg however stated that a prison sentence seemed warranted.
No jail time
Relieved family members of the four convicted persons Kapia, the Blaauw’s and /Gâses who all opted to pay their fines, joyfully waited them outside the court doors for the four to walk free. One of those who was pleased with the outcome of the case, was Paulus Kapia’s younger brother Petrus Kapia, who on the sidelines told this publication that the journey was long and tough, just like that of the liberation struggle.
He highlighted that despite the case having left his family financially broken, he was glad that his brother could finally put this behind him.
“We all knew that he never did anything wrong and he never had any intentions to defraud nor steal from anyone, in all the evidence given to the court, this was proved.
Although he was sentenced he says his hands remain clean. The Namibian people must just understand that. Of course we know that this was a political motivated case it was not about money, it was about Kapia himself” he said.
He further highlighted that Kapia did not commit any crime but noted that the only reason as to why the judge removed them from negligence case and then convicted them on fraud without intentions to steal was because they wanted to please their masters.
“They knew that if they convicted them on negligence only, the sentence would be less. They were trying to put things together to make it seem as if Kapia is a bad person within the society which is not the case” he said.
Paulus Kapia who walked out a happy man, noted that the night before the sentencing he had slept very well because he was certain that he had never touched a single cent of the N$30 Million.
“I knew that I never collaborated with anybody who stole the money but I am happy that after all these years of the struggles that I have been through because of this case, I am able to go home as a free man” noted Kapia.
Inez /Gâses, who seemed emotionally drained highlighted that she was overwhelmed with joy and could not express in words how she felt walking out of those doors with a clear conscience.
“Thirteen years later the journey was stressful and painful, it was a financial burden on the family.
This morning my daughter asked me if I was going to fetch her from school today and I said yes, and here I am on my way to get her” she stated.
A tearful Ralph Blaauw who spoke on behalf of his wife as well explained that he was not happy with the verdict, because he knew that he had made some mistakes but highlighted that the mistakes were all innocent mistakes.
“We never wanted to steal nor lose money, we put our reputations and lives on the line.
The media messed with us and we could not say anything about it.
The reporting was one sided and I hope nobody ever has to go through this.
We have kids that went through this with us, if the reporting was accurate from the beginning rather than what people wanted in terms of wanting the investigation showing that our accounts had Avid money – this was so sad” said Blaauw.
He further explained that, the community in which Namibians live should stop accusing people until the accused are proven guilty.
“We must not judge people without facts, because it is so wrong. I am however happy that all this is over. Although I was blank when the judge read the verdict, I felt very sorry for Josea because he is a father too. There is however nothing we can do about it, we just need to pick up the pieces.
I just hope it can now be clear that we did not take anything from the SSC money because people up to date are still going around telling us to pay back money. Money that we did not even take, I remember that I was the first person to say that if they could prove that I took this money I would walk to prison,” he said.
The Kandara factor
But while the accused persons rejoice following the judgment, it remains unknown as to what the family of the late Lazarus Kandara makes of Judge Liebenberg’s judgment.
Kandara, who died in 2005 when the case started making public headlines, has seemingly been made the fall guy throughout the case with most of the accused claiming they had not known him and that he orchestrated everything.
But despite the pivotal role played by Kandara in forming the company and his involvement subsequent thereto as borne out by the evidence, the court said it is of significance to note that his name never featured in the official company registration documents, neither in correspondence and the business proposal of Avid which was submitted to the SSC managers in support of the company’s bid.
Analyst share views
Political analyst, Ndumba Kamwanyah shared his sentiments of the outcome of the case by noting that it is good that the saga has been concluded, but it comes with mixed reactions.
“I feel the sentencing was a little lenient because if you look at the magnitude of the case and the amount of money involved, the sentencing is a piece of cake for the Paulus Kapia, Inez /Gâses, Sharon and Ralph Blaauw. People involved in these corruption cases are people with money and it will be easy for them to pay off this fine through their associates.
We need to send out a strong message when it comes to public corruption. These guys are probably happy now because it is nothing for them. I would have wanted a stiffer sentencing for a case that started long ago with accumulated interest” said Kamwanyah.
Professor Nico Horn was not surprised by the sentencing because this is new to Namibian law and this case alone has set new standards.
“While we should understand that they have been prosecuted and found guilty, and the fact that the losses will never be recovered, it sends out a message to the public that mishandling public money is a crime punishable by law.
I feel sorry for those who were not deeply involved but it is time that directors are held accountable.
You should not fall for everything because some of this proposals will get you in trouble” concluded Horn.