Ndeitunga mum on SME Bank probe

07 December 2017 | Police And Crime

Police chief Sebastian Ndeitunga remained cagey on investigations into the disappearance of millions from the now liquidated SME Bank.

Ndeitunga informed Namibian Sun in May this year that a criminal probe by the police under the Prevention of Organised Crime Act, had been launched to investigate the disappearance of approximately N$200 million.

“I do not have an update on that, maybe if you told me earlier I could have asked my people to provide me with an update, but I do not have an update,” he said when engaged on the matter last week.

When called to comment on the matter, the Bank of Namibia said they were only a regulator and that it was not their responsibility to hold any individual to account.

“The Bank of Namibia's responsibility towards the SME Bank is confined to the regulatory obligations and duties as set out in the applicable Banking Institutions Act,” its spokesperson, Kazembire Zemburuka said.

According to him, it was now up to the Namibian police, the Master of the High Court, or the liquidators appointed in terms of the ruling delivered by the High Court, to decide whether they would be pressing any charges against the directors and management of the SME Bank.

The launch of an official commission of inquiry is seen as a possible avenue to hold those to account responsible for the collapse of the SME Bank.

This is the view of retired academic and legal expert Nico Horn who recently gave his opinion on what may happen now that the High Court has ruled that the SME Bank be liquidated.

“It is for the shareholders to make that decision, [in fact] any individual can lay a criminal charge. If there is a suspicion of criminal activity,” Horn said.

According to him, it was likely that an investigation will be launched by the minister of trade, under whose responsibility the SME Bank was previously.

“I would expect that there be a full investigation. It is also possible that the minister responsible can request for a commission of inquiry. If a commission is appointed, that would be the route taken,” he said.

Finance minister Calle Schlettwein would not comment on the matter although several requests were made.

The SME Bank was placed under liquidation on Wednesday last week by High Court Judge Hannelie Prinsloo.

The SME Bank was first placed under the curatorship of the Bank of Namibia when it was discovered that between N$181 million and N$196 million was invested in questionable financial instruments in South Africa.

More than 200 people lost their jobs when the bank closed its doors.

OGONE TLHAGE