Fishrot's De Klerk washes dirty laundry

The law firm at the centre of allegations that Fishrot money passed through its accounts is currently involved in a messy High Court battle.

07 August 2020 | Justice

RONELLE RADEMEYER

WINDHOEK



Marén de Klerk, the lawyer who left Namibia amid allegations that millions of dollars from the Fishrot bribery scandal had passed through two of his bank accounts, has been accused of a malicious attack on his business partners.

The accusation was made before Judge Thomas Masuku in the High Court this week, in an application for De Klerk to be removed as executor of three deceased estates.

One of the estates in question is that of the late Aaron Mushimba, a well-known Namibian businessman who died in 2014.

Advocate Theo Barnard asked on behalf of Stoan Horn, Celeste Coetzee and Petrus Strauss, partners in the law firm De Klerk, Horn and Coetzee Incorporated (DHC), that certain parts of De Klerk's affidavits, in which he “unreasonably criticised” them, be scrapped.

Barnard said the reason for this is was to protect their good name.

According to De Klerk, Coetzee, who is the compliance officer at DHC, is definitely in the sights of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC).

That is because he had told her in late November or early December last year of the allegations against their clients, former justice minister Sacky Shanghala and former chief executive of Investec Asset Management Namibia James Hatuikulipi.

Shanghala and Hatuikulipi are in custody, along with four other accused, former fisheries minister Bernard Esau, his son-in-law, Tamson (Fitty) Hatuikulipi, Ricardo Gustavo and Pius Mwatelulo. In his affidavits, De Klerk said he instructed Coetzee to immediately report all suspect transactions the firm was involved in to the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC). According to Coetzee, she only became aware in January of the allegations against their clients.

Incompetent

The High Court application to remove De Klerk as executor was made by Johan Penderis and lawyer Philip Ellis, as well as the beneficiaries of the three estates.

Penderis, who was Mushimba's financial advisor, said in his affidavit that De Klerk had been out of Namibia for almost six months and therefore could not fulfil his duties as executor.

He also accused De Klerk of maladministration in the execution of Mushimba's will.

Advocate Andrew Corbett, SC, argued in court that De Klerk knew he was being sought by the Namibian authorities in connection with several offences related to the Fishrot scandal, including corruption, money laundering, tax evasion and extortion.

That was the only reason why De Klerk had left Namibia and refused to return, Corbett argued.

“Because of the seriousness of the charges, he decided to flee from the law,” Corbett said.

De Klerk claimed he is not a fugitive and that he has cooperated with the authorities since December 2019.

That cooperation includes a 400-page statement that he submitted to the ACC on 23 April.

De Klerk further denied that he is unfit to continue serving as executor and ascribed the allegation of maladministration to vindictiveness by Penderis.

He said executing an estate can be done remotely and it is not necessary for him to be physically present in Namibia.

Furthermore, De Klerk claimed that he fears for his life should he return to Namibia, as he has received several death threats and attempts have been made on his life.

Advocate Yoleta Campbell, representing De Klerk, asked the court to dismiss the application.

Judge Masuku postponed the matter to 27 August.

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