Millionaire businessman, Laurensius Julius, who is accused together with six Chinese business persons of allegedly defrauding the tax man of at least N$3.5 billion in import taxes failed in his first attempt to have the Windhoek High Court change the charges he is facing.
High Court Judge Thomas Masuku rejected an application by Julius to oblige the prosecutor-general to hand over the docket of the investigation into the massive tax scandal.
Julius together with prominent businessman Yuigua Haung, also known as Jack Huang, Tao Huizhong, Jinrong Huang, Zhu Honggang and businesswoman Hongyin Jia face charges of tax evasion, fraud and money laundering involving N$3.5 billion.
Julius is currently free on a bond of N$1.5 million.
Julius wanted to use the docket to prepare for an application in the High Court to set aside the decision of the prosecutor general (PG) to arraign him on charges under the Prevention of Organised Crime Act (POCA).
He is also asking the High Court to order the PG to provide him with copies of all the evidence and documents to be used in the trial against him. He needs them to prepare for the review proceedings in the High Court, Julius stated in an affidavit filed with the court.
He also stated in his court papers that his business, Extreme Customs Clearance Services, has ceased its operations due to the events that prevailed.
The State represented by Deputy Prosecutor General Ed Marondedze vigorously opposed the application and in principle said the High Court has no jurisdiction to interfere with the matter as it is pending in the magistrate’s court. He further contended if Julius is of the view that there is no or insufficient evidence against him, the proper forum to raise the issues is the trial court.
Furthermore, Marondedze said, Julius did not cite his co-accused and the presiding officer in the trial court, yet they have a substantial interest in whatever decision the High Court makes and to make matters even worse, he said, the record which Julius wants availed to him consists of the docket which is still under investigation.
According to Judge Masuku, the State must be allowed, with limited reason, the liberty to properly and fully investigate matters until such a time when they have gathered the evidence they deem necessary. He said that the finalisation of investigations can only have a positive effect, not only for the State, but also for the accused as in many instances decisions to arrest suspects are made based on the available evidence at the time of arrest. He however said it must not be understood that the court is encouraging the “pernicious practice of arrest now, investigate later”, but it must be understood that it is a reality that it sometimes takes more time to investigate one crime against another and it would be necessary for the court to place conditions that will ensure that interference with investigations, evidence and potential witnesses are avoided.
Judge Masuku further said that in his opinion, Julius is not entitled to the record at the present moment as he is acutely aware that investigations are not concluded.
But, the judge said, this is not a carte blance licence to the State and the investigating authorities to drag their feet.