Human trafficking charges resurface to haunt Karibo

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Nuusita Ashipala

Oshakati-Nigerian-born Benson Mwahiri Karibo, known as ‘Igwe’, could still be convicted of human trafficking and attempting to defeat or obstruct the course of justice, as well as bribery after the Oshakati High Court granted the State leave to appeal his acquittal on Friday.

Karibo was acquitted on the charges at Oshakati Regional Court on July 14, 2014. At the time of his acquittal, Karibo had been on bail of N$25,000, which he was granted in November 19, 2010 after he was arrested on June 1 that same year.

Although the court agreed there were flaws in the testimonies of different state witnesses during the trial, Judge Herman January said another court might arrive at a different conclusion.

“There are indeed flaws in the State’s case. This court, however, finds that despite that another court may come to a different conclusion and there are reasonable prospects for success on appeal evaluating the evidence as a whole,” Judge January said.

The court at the time found that there was not sufficient evidence on the charges he faced, thus acquitted him on corruptly offering to bribe to then Informanté journalists Patience Nyangove and Max Hamata not publish reports on the smuggling of migrants in the weekly newspaper.

He attempted to bribe them with N$700 and a bottle of wine in the first instance at his home, the court heard. In the second instance, reportedly Karibo stepped into an undercover trap arranged by the police, when he gave Nyangove Kentucky Fried Chicken, N$600 and US$200, which led to his arrest.

According to court records, the two officers who participated in the undercover operation did not witness the handing over of money, but were in the vicinity of the car in which Karibo and the journalist transacted.

He was also acquitted of smuggling or intentionally participating in smuggling migrants into Namibia. Karibo is said to have smuggled Nigerian national John Okenna, enabling him to remain unlawfully in Namibia, in return for Karibo benefiting financially or materially.

He was further acquitted of attempting to defeat or obstruct the course of justice by interfering with state witnesses. Whilst he was in custody Karibo is said to have telephonically requested Petrus Mogotsie Ambrosius and Ephraim Ndingi Chaka to delete received cellphone numbers and to inform other potential witnesses.

He further also informed state witnesses that the police were on the trail to investigate the arrangements of transporting foreign nationals from Wenela border post to Oshikango. Upon arrival in Oshikango, Karibo is said to have facilitated accommodation for the migrants and provided them with food.

In his defence, Karibo confirmed knowing John Okena, but denied arranging for accommodation or transport. He testified that allegations of human smuggling were fabricated by one Arina, who once accommodated Okena in Windhoek, who at the time had financial problems and could not return to Nigeria.

According to a story published by the weekly Informanté at the time, Karibo also faced a case of bigamy, which was out thrown when his marriage to Martha Ndafohamba was annulled. Karibo married Ndafohamba in August 22, 2002 and one year later wedded Elly Kashuna at Gobabis in December 11, 2003, whilst still married to Ndafohamba.

Melvin Nyambe of Shikongo Law Chambers represented Karibo. Adv Ruben Shileka appeared for the State.

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