Calle reads riot act to ‘rotten apples’

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Edgar Brandt

Windhoek-Finance minister Calle Schlettwein yesterday promised to act against officials who take advantage of the government system to enrich themselves, promising that people engaged in defrauding the State would be severely dealt with.

“We should have no tolerance for any of these activities, whether it is corruption, fraud, dishonesty or fiddling with the system or whatever, no tolerance,” said a clearly disappointed Schlettwein.

He was addressing the finance ministry staff at the National Theatre of Namibia during their first general staff meeting of the year, when he spoke of having noticed “some rotten apples in the basket”.

“We have dishonesty, corruption and floating the system has become evident. We have seen these prosecutions that are happening. It is very, very disappointing to see this happening in an institution that has as its core values integrity, honesty and loyalty,” Schlettwein said.

He was of course referring to the case of three men – two Chinese and one Namibian – implicated in the massive ongoing N$3.5 billion fraud and tax evasion case. The men, who were arrested following an investigation into the outflow of foreign currency from Namibia, instigated by the Bank of Namibia last year,were each granted bail of N$1.5 million with stringent conditions attached.

During the investigation it was discovered that N$3.5 billion was shipped out of the country through a customs clearing company. Investigators discovered that imports were under-declared at customs and over-declared at the bank, resulting in losses of billions of dollars to the country.

The men are charged with fraud and money laundering for allegedly defrauding the Ministry of Finance between the start of 2010 and December 19 last year with the calculation and payment of customs duties.

Schlettwein added that the ministry and law enforcement officials acted swiftly on the incidences of alleged corruption and fraud perpetrated at both Customs and Customs (C&E) and the Inland Revenue Department (IRD) offices in Walvis Bay and Oshikango.

“Individuals who involve themselves in such corrupt and fraudulent deeds should, as they do, face the full wrath of the law,” Schlettwein emphasised.

Speaking specifically to C&E and IRD officials, Schlettwein said: “I hope this year we will clean our house and regain our integrity.”

“These people who are engaged in these activities must be dealt with like the law says. And I appeal that if you hear or come across something, come out and share it with your supervisor, anyone who can address the system,” the minister appealed to the staff.

He said corruption could undo years of honest and hard work. “If we do not ourselves tackle this problem, it will not go away, in fact it will get worse. So do not think you are clever, you are not clever, you are shooting yourself in the foot. You are weakening the chance of having a good life for yourself and your children,” said a clearly upset Schlettwein.

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