Avid Inquiry Peaked Local News

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By Emma Kakololo WINDHOEK THE High Court Companies Act Inquiry this year into the investment of N$30 million of Social Security Commission’s (SSC) money that went down the drain through Avid Investment Corporation turned out to be the country’s most keenly followed legal proceedings in recent memory. The prime object of the inquiry was to establish the truth about what had happened to N$30 million that the SSC ‘invested’ through Avid. Former directors of Avid topped the list of the people who testified in the inquiry. They included former Deputy Minister of Works and National Assembly member Paulus Kapia, the former Acting Secretary General of the National Youth Council, Ralph Blaauw, lawyer Otniel Podewiltz, who is employed at the Ministry of Labour, the former chairperson of Avid’s board of directors, Inez /GÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚Âses, and the creator and Chief Executive Officer of Avid, the late Lazarus Kandara. Dismissing strong protestations from the Swapo Youth League (SPYL), Avid mastermind Kandara testified the SPYL was one of the shareholders of Avid Investment Corporation, and one of the League’s more prominent members, National Youth Council Acting Secretary General Ralph Blaauw, was a director in all but name. He claimed the ruling party’s youth organ held a 10 per cent share in Avid and a trust company connected to the Secretary of the Swapo Party Youth League (SPYL), Deputy Works, Transport and Communication Minister Paulus Kapia, also held 10 per cent of the shareholding in Avid. The shareholding of both the SPYL and Kapia’s Community Care Trust, he said, had been arranged through the middleman efforts of Blaauw. Another shareholder of Avid, whom Kandara identified as retired Namibia Defence Force Brigadier Mathias Shiweda, held eight per cent of the shareholding in the company, according to Kandara. Both Shiweda and Blaauw were supposed to be directors of Avid as well, but asked not to be reflected on paper as part of the company, Kandara told the court. Former military officer Shiweda, however, in some of Avid’s correspondence was referred to as a director. But he insisted that he was only a shareholder. During his testimony, the former soldier distanced himself from his own affidavit in which he heavily implicated both Kapia and Blaauw together with the late Kandara as being among the key players of Avid. Despite taking an oath that there was nothing out of line with his affidavit, when he was put under intense questioning by Andrew Corbett representing the SSC and the Avid liquidators, he constantly tried to divert attention from himself saying the affidavit was written by his lawyer, Richard Metcalfe. All the directors with the exception of their chairperson, /GÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚Âses, claimed not to know that the late Lazarus Kandara was indeed Avid’s chief executive officer. They also said they did not keep records of board meetings and did not know who the other employees were, amongst others. The court further heard that Kapia, and shareholders Mathias Shiweda and Podewiltz, each received N$40 000 from Kandara’s wife Christophine while former parliamentarian Ralph Blaauw pocketed a sum of N$80 000. At the conclusion of the inquiry, Andrew Corbett, the lawyer representing the Social Security Commission (SSC) and the liquidators of Avid, noted that the directors of Avid had little knowledge about their responsibilities as directors and proposed that in order for the country to benefit economically, people appointed as directors be trained to ensure corporate governance in the country. Corbett also wanted charges pressed against wrongdoers and said he would wait for advice from the Judge and the Prosecuter-General. Three months after the end of the inquiry, Acting Judge Raymond Heathcote in his report last month (November) advised the Prosecutor General to consider pressing perjury charges against some of the people who testified in the High Court inquiry. He concluded his report with one recommendation only, however very sweeping, which may yet turn out to have serious consequences for some of the people who testified during the inquiry. The former Acting Judge concluded that some of the witnesses in the inquiry had told him lies. “Perjury should never be defined as a ‘petty crime’, for if that is done, it is impliedly accepted that the Namibian future will be determined by something other than the truth,” he states adding: “Such conduct should be met with the full force of the law.” On January 26, the SSC had transferred the N$29.5 million to Avid’s bank account. The money was further transferred to a bank account of another asset management company, Namangol Investments. Namangol chief executive officer Nico Josea who was recently released on bail lavishly spent part of the Social Security Commission money on himself, relatives, friends and church associates while giving some of the money back to Kandara. Josea said that the N$20 million he sent to Alan Rosenberg Investment Services in South Africa was put in a pool together with other investments. From the proceeds, Rosenberg gave him N$15 million for him to spend, and an additional N$15 million was still to come in May and June. He also said he spent the money because he knew that US$35,8 million, in which he had 50 percent shares was going to mature in August 2006, from an investment that he partnered with Allan Rosenberg. To date the SSC had not recovered its investment. To date, Avid has not been in a position to repay the SSC since May when the investment matured.