By Max Hamata Windhoek Prominent Ondangwa-based lawyer Arunugam Thambapilai was yesterday arrested for allegedly defrauding the Motor Vehicle Accident (MVA) fund in accident claims amounting to N$75 000. MVA investigating officials cited the diminutive 60-year-old’s arrest as a tip of an iceberg that is expected to unfold in multiple arrests of lawyers and some other people who colluded to defraud the MVA fund. Thambapilai is alleged to have surrendered himself to the police only yesterday morning after a warrant of arrest was issued last week Wednesday. He escaped being sent directly to the police cells after pleading with arresting police commercial branch investigators to be sent to hospital under police guard, claiming that he has a “heart condition”. When New Era visited him in hospital, Thambapilai who lay on his bed said he could not comment on the arrest, saying he was experiencing chest pains. The fraudulent claim that landed the lawyer in trouble relates to a claim of N$75 000 which was meant to be paid out to a widow whose husband died in a car accident more than a year ago. She had three children. According to sources at the MVA Fund, the claimant, Ndinelao Nangha lodged a claim with the MVA Fund in 2000 for the loss of support for herself and her minor children, following the death of her husband as a result of a motor vehicle accident. “Unfortunately, Ndinelao Nangha passed away in February 2001 before the claim was finalised. The lawyer, Thambapilai, was informed but did not inform the MVA Fund of the death of the claimant. He instead allegedly represented to the fund that the deceased was still alive and consequently the fund paid out N$75 956 to the claimant. “The trail of how the money was distributed indicates an intent to defraud the fund. The fund thus had no option but to lay a charge of fraud …,” said the MVA chairperson Philip Amunyela in a statement yesterday. One MVA investigator told New Era that Thambapilai’s powers to represent the widow ceased as soon as she died and it was clear that he had used numerous fraudulent means to pocket the funds. Having received the N$75 956 from the MVA, it is alleged that when Thambapilai learned of the death of the widow, he requested her elder son (not eligible for the MVA claim) to bring an elderly woman and the widow’s birth certificate to Thambapilai’s office in order to issue the widow’s claims to the son. Thambapilai then issued a cheque of N$49 000 in the name of the deceased mother and retained the difference. He is then alleged to have sent the illiterate woman and son, in the company of two of his employees, to the bank to cash the cheque. MVA investigations uncovered that when they (Thambapilai’s employees and the illiterate woman and son) managed to cash the cheque, they took it to Thambapilai. The MVA investigator said it was clear that the idea was to misrepresent the old woman as a mother. “When the money was brought to him he did not want to give the guy (elder son) the money. “To show some signs of honesty, he issued another cheque of N$500 to the MVA fund to give an impression that he is an honest guy and that he was overpaid.” The investigator said there are other serious investigations against Thambapilai and further arrests of other lawyers implicated in MVA fraud are expected. When approached for comment, a close relative of Thambapilai said the lawyer was not in a stable condition to speak on the matter.
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