N$600m down the drain

The country's top prosecutor says it is regrettable that N$600 million has been lost to the country.

22 August 2019 | Justice

Any hopes of Namibia recovering the over N$600 million lost in the Government Institutions Pension Fund (GIPF) scandal have been dashed.

Prosecutor-General Martha Imalwa confirmed yesterday the money lost two decades ago was unrecoverable and has been lost to the country for good.

She was speaking at a media conference yesterday where she dealt with several high-profile matters, including the GIPF saga and the SME Bank scandal in which millions were also spirited out of the country.

“It is regrettable what happened in the GIPF matter. It is a regrettable situation. More than N$600 million got lost in the process. To trace where the money went proved problematic for the investigation,” she said.

Imalwa said there has been mounting criticism over the years that she has been covering for “political heavyweights” reportedly implicated in these cases.

She stressed a decision to prosecute is based on evidence and the applicable laws, and after a docket has been analysed diligently.

Imalwa said although the GIPF case was already opened in 2009, investigations into the matter only started in early 2012.

Over N$600 million was swindled from the GIPF via loans granted through its defunct Development Capital Portfolio (DCP) to several local companies, some of whom had little or no business track record.

The DCP operated from 1996 to 2006.

Despite writing off over N$600 million as bad debt, the GIPF was reportedly able to make a profit of N$146 million from the portfolio.

According to Imalwa, the investigations focused on 20 companies and her office declined to prosecute 18 firms that had been implicated.

However, Imalwa said they have decided to prosecute the 19th company, but that this relates to incidences in which the firm was under liquidation and hid its property from the liquidator.

An individual will, therefore, be charged with fraud and alternatively for contravening the Insolvency Act.





Imalwa said the individual cannot be named as the person has not appeared in court, but was due to appear in the Oshakati Regional Court on 3 October this year.

According to her the 20th matter is still under investigation.

Commenting on reports that implied that the GIPF dockets have been on her table for 10 years, Imalwa said: “The investigation started in 2012. How can that be 10 years? Please come out and tell the truth.”

She clarified that the police had brought dockets to her office and she had directed them what was still needed to strengthen them.

“The last docket after the investigations were finalised was only submitted last year.”

Imalwa stressed the matter contains a lot of documentation made up of 195 archlever files.

“The decision is not made by one person and our decision has to be credible,” she added.

She further elaborated on the challenges they were faced with during the GIPF investigations, saying that the fund started to invest in unlisted investments in the 1990s.

“Evidence indicates that the first investment was in 1996. Now imagine tracing from that time until the 2000s.”

In terms of the law, documentary evidence must be kept up to five years, unless there is an ongoing investigation or otherwise specified, Imalwa told journalists yesterday.

“Due to the period that lapsed when the loans were applied for and granted, most documents could not be traced. There were also challenges because of changes in staff.”

'Insufficient evidence'

Imalwa said those involved with the approval of the loans indicated that because of the absence of documentation they had no recollection of what transpired at the time.

Some have also since died.

“Most of the decisions not to prosecute were because of insufficient evidence.”

Imalwa said investigators were finding it difficult, as officials had appointed attorneys.



SME Bank

The prosecutor-general also touched on the SME Bank saga, saying the matter was still under investigation.

“It has not even been brought to my office to take a decision. This docket is not at my office. It is still under investigation.”

The now defunct SME Bank closed down after the Bank of Namibia successfully applied to the High Court to have its doors closed, following the disappearance of about N$200 million, which was reportedly channelled to various South African institutions. Liquidators are currently hunting for the funds.

Imalwa defended her record, saying accusations that she was protecting high-level politicians and officials were unfounded.

“I am not above the law; I too can be prosecuted. Why should I live above the law if I have done something wrong? Let me be prosecuted. Prove your case. I have taken an oath to serve my country without fear or prejudice.”

She said she will not prosecute people based on public pressure.

“I will not protect anybody if there is credible information that they have done something wrong. I will never prosecute without a prima facie case being established against an individual, just to satisfy the public,” she said.





ELLANIE SMIT

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