PG probes Vilho’s Hong Kong account

Prosecution authorities have contacted China and Hong Kong, seeking clarity on the defence minister’s offshore account, which he did not list in the parliamentary asset registry.

01 April 2021 | Local News

JEMIMA BEUKES AND KENYA KAMBOWE







WINDHOEK

Defence minister Peter Vilho has confirmed owning a unit trust account with HSBC bank in Hong Kong, which had a market value of N$3.4 million as of September 2020, but did not list it in the asset registry at Parliament as required by law.

Vilho confirmed that he has had the offshore account for 12 year, but his submission of assets and sources of income at Parliament – which he signed on 2 June 2020 – does not reflect the account.

He did not answer questions on why he omitted it from his list of assets and source of income.

Instead, the defence minister listed two houses, a mahangu field, a plot and 10% in Aussenkher Energy PTY Ltd.

Prosecutor-general (PG) Martha Imalwa yesterday confirmed that she is investigating Vilho’s account in Hong Kong, after it was alleged that the defence minister’s account in that country was used to transfer N$1.5 million into the account of former chief of the Namibian Defence Force (NDF), Martin Shalli.

Shalli was charged for fraud related to large amounts of money allegedly given to him by a company which had a contract with NDF, which he was in charge of at the time.

The alleged payment from Vilho’s Hong Kong account to Shalli was made around the time the latter’s money from China was forfeited to the State, the PG said.

‘My prerogative’

Commenting on Vilho’s account yesterday, Imalwa said: "We sent requests to China and Hong Kong and we haven’t received feedback. We had to make an application. That was a criminal matter and I have mandate to ask for information. What I know is that the police requested for information in terms of the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Act, to get information through diplomatic channels. Up to now nothing has changed".

Vilho’s offshore banking activities were revealed by Windhoek mayor Job Amupanda, who continues to allege that the defence minister is corrupt and must be fired.

Vilho has consistently denied the allegations and challenged his detractors to take their evidence against him to the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC).

Yesterday, he told Namibian Sun that he has been banking in Hong Kong for over 12 years prior to becoming executive director in the ministry of defence in 2017.

He was appointed the commander of the maritime wing of the NDF in 2002, a position he held before becoming executive director in 2017 and minister of the same portfolio in 2020.

Vilho yesterday said where he banks his money is a decision only he can make - and not anyone else.

“I became a minister in 2020 and an executive director in 2017. Before that, I have been a private citizen like everyone else,” the 59-year-old minister said.

“I suppose what I do with my money is my prerogative.”

Corruption allegations

Amupanda has been on Vilho’s trail for months now, and this week called for President Hage Geingob to recall his defence minister or become liable to the alleged corrupt activities of the former military man.

Amupanda separately claimed that Vilho sanctioned a N$200 million transfer from the defence ministry to its commercial arm, August 26 Holding Company, in 2017 without Treasury approval.

Amupanda claimed to be in possession of a report in which the transaction is listed.

According to the mayor, the report stated that the defence ministry bought naval ships and military uniforms from Brazilian companies at inflated prices and without following tender procedures during Vilho's term as executive director. In response, Vilho said if this report was an official one from the auditor-general, the current executive director should be able to respond to that.

Calle Schlettwein, the minister of finance when the alleged transfer took place, told Namibian Sun at the time that he was unaware of such a transfer.

“I tried to establish [the facts] and there was no payment to August 26 [from the finance ministry]; there was also no budget for August 26. There was no money provided in the budget to be paid to August 26 from finance. Whether the defence ministry paid it, that I do not know,” he said.

Auditor-general Junias Kandjeke has over the years complained that his work is adversely affected by the defence ministry's reluctance to share its financial reports for auditing. The ministry has consistently used national security as reason why it would not open up its books.

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