Racket on ‘Imports’ Exposed

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By Chrispin Inambao WINDHOEK In the aftermath of painstaking investigations into a racket that saw government being crooked of import duties, the Roads Authority (R.A) has established that the scam was far and wide and involved a fleet of 35 pre-owned, imported vehicles. The scam covers vehicles registered at NaTIS at Ongwediva, Oshakati and Ondangwa, purportedly under the false claim that the vehicles were repossessions bought at an auction. And a Messenger of the Court at Ondangwa, who is already on suspension, allegedly masterminded the well-orchestrated scam in which he allegedly falsified a host of documents. The bogus documents indicate that the vehicles, despite being Japanese imports whose owners were statutorily obliged to pay import duty, were cleared as having been bought at local auctions and thus met stipulations to be registered and licensed by NaTIS. Namibia Transport Information System (NaTIS) as the registrar is a sub-division of R.A. New Era was reliably informed that the alleged mastermind of the scam, Jafet Shigwedha – who is the Court Messenger – and his accomplices face several charges of fraud and that they were in contravention of the Road Traffic and Transport Act. Another key suspect in the case is Shigwedha’s secretary, August Mutumbulwa. After falsifying the documents, she facilitated the irregular registration of the Japanese imports, and members of the syndicate in turn received hefty kickbacks from importers. The perpetrators managed to dodge paying import duty on several dozen second-hand vehicles imported from Japan, an affluent, heavily industrialized Asian nation. And Customs and Excise investigators who got wind of the scam, managed to collect N$150ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ 000 in import duties from the owners of the bogusly imported vehicles. The Roads Authority got wind of the irregularities in the application for registration and licensing allegedly masterminded by the court official. Sources indicated that the syndicate even forged letters purporting to be legal documents from several law firms which apparently played a legal role in the fictitious “auctions.” The investigation started on March 27, 2006 and involved NaTIS and R.A and later the police had to be roped in as the alleged offence took commercial crime dimensions. But when several people were contacted to authenticate sworn affidavits, saying they were dispossessed of vehicles, investigators eventually found the documents to be fake. One of the cases involved a vehicle with the registration number RRG490H, registered in January 2006 in the name of Mr F. Ndakukamo after fraudulent documents were issued. Documents indicated that this vehicle was repossessed and sold at a public auction in the matter between First National Bank of Namibia, the creditor, and Ms Saara Jacob, the debtor. But when Jacob was traced, she made a sworn statement denying having any knowledge of the vehicle “which was allegedly repossessed from her.” She further indicated that in her case with First National Bank, she had arranged with the Messenger of the Court to pay off the outstanding amount in instalments and, as a result, nothing was repossessed. And the legal firm, Van der Merwe-Greeff Inc, which was purported to have issued the notice of sale in execution that was submitted with the application, denied having issued such notice. The legal firm also disclaimed the signature that was on the document. And when the new owner of the import was traced, he also squealed telling investigators that he “bought the vehicle from the Messenger of the Court, Mr Jafet Shigwedha, as a private sale and not on auction as indicated in the registration of the vehicle.” Ndakukamo is said to have sold this vehicle to a certain Fernando Kapale, a resident of Oshikango who has yet to be traced, while the origin of this vehicle remains a mystery. One of the vehicles included in the probe bears the registration number RPZ700H. It was registered with NaTIS in September 2005 in the name of Mr E. Herunga after the suspended court official issued “fraudulent documents.” Upon interrogation, Shigwedha confessed having sold the said vehicle to Herunga, and admitted this was not through a public auction. To make this case more intriguing, Andreas Tuutaleni Shidhila, from whom the said vehicle was purportedly repossessed, “is believed to be mentally disturbed.” This particular vehicle had to be repossessed by the State. Registration of the 35 vehicles was declared null and void as the vehicle registration and licensing authorities feel this misrepresentation of facts was intended to deprive the government of its rightful income on import duties. Roads Authority is retainign the registration certificates and licence discs confiscated from the owners of these vehicles until it receives the necesssary documentation. When contacted for comment Audrin Mathe, the spokesman for Roads Authority, said: “I can confirm there are cases of that nature that Roads Authority and the Namibian Police are following up at Oshakati, Ongwediva and Ondangwa.” “We are very concerned about those kinds of irregularities, and we urge people who have information of similar cases to come forward,” said Mathe.