Church fraud case referred to ACC court

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Windhoek

The matter in which a pastor of a Christian congregation in Windhoek and two other accused are facing 15 charges of fraud or theft, involving a total amount of N$700 000, will proceed in the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) court at the Katutura Magistrate’s Court complex on June 6 2016.

Japhet Sem, a former pastor of the Macedonia Congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Republic of Namibia (ELCRN), in Katutura; the congregation’s church council member Eunice Nakapunda; and a fellow ELCRN pastor, Mark Beukes, are on trial before magistrate Cosmos Endjala.

The three were informed on Tuesday that the matter would be transferred to the corruption court.
The three pleaded not guilty to all charges last year. Sem and Nakapunda are charged with eight counts of fraud, alternatively theft, involving a total of N$310 600, while Sem and Beukes are jointly charged with seven counts of fraud or theft, involving a sum of N$380 000.

The State says Sem and his two co-accused swindled the ELCRN or the church’s Macedonia congregation, during the period July 24, 2009 to March 9, 2010, out of N$690 600. The money came from the congregation’s bank account, which they used for their own benefit.

Alternatively, it is alleged that they stole a total of N$690 600 from the bank account of the congregation.
Sem’s version of events, which his defence lawyer, Flora Gaes, has put to the prosecution’s witnesses so far in the trial, is that he was the victim of a fraudulent scheme in which international con men managed to convince him to transfer church funds to a foreign bank account.

Sem paid the money into a foreign account after he had received the good news that he had inherited US$2.5 million – but with the condition that he had to make some payments, apparently to lawyers and for the transfer costs of the substantial inheritance, before the money was to be paid to him.

The three were nabbed by ACC officials in 2011. Sem has since joined another congregation, the Hallelujah Congregation, which holds services near the Hakahana Service Station in Katutura.
Alexander Veikko represented the State.

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