WINDHOEK – Minister of Finance Calle Schlettwein yesterday testified in the ongoing mega fraud case involving scanners bought from China, saying no third party was involved in securing the scanners for the government.
According to Schlettwein, who was the permanent secretary (PS) of finance at the time, negotiations on the framework agreement between China and Namibia was done on a government-to-government basis with only officials from the line ministry and China embassy involved, besides officials from the China Exim Bank.
He had no idea how Teko Trading, which allegedly bagged more than US$12 million ‘commission’, got involved in the highly controversial deal.
Former Public Service Commission chairperson Teckla Lameck, her equal business partner in Teko Trading, Jerobeam Kongo Mokaxwa, and Chinese national Yang Fan are on trial in the Windhoek High Court before Judge Christi Liebenberg in connection with the inflation of the price for the deal.
They denied guilt on the charges they face at the start of their new trial after three judges of the Supreme Court upheld their suspicion of potential bias against the judge that presided over their original trial, Maphios Cheda, and removed him from the trial and replaced him with Judge Liebenberg.
So far Ericah Shafuda, the current PS of the finance ministry, and Schlettwein have testified that the Department of Customs and Excise submitted a request to the finance ministry for scanners to be installed at border points of Namibia, including airports, harbours and ground border posts. Shafuda testified that at the time she was the deputy PS responsible for government accounts and assisted in drafting a proposal to access a concessional loan from China to purchase the scanners.
She said an agreement was reached with the Chinese government that required from Namibia to advance payment of just over US$12 million to start manufacturing the equipment.
Part of the agreement was that the Chinese government would provide the rest of the purchase price, just more than US$42 million, on the condition that a Chinese firm was appointed to manufacture and install the scanners.
Nuctech Technologies was subsequently appointed with a price tag of just over US$55 million.
On a question from Sisa Namandje, who represents the Teko Trio as they have come to be known, Shafuda conceded that the Namibian government accepted the price of US$55 million for the scanners without knowing whether or not other parties were involved.
Schlettwein also read into the record a clause in the contract that in essence says either party – government or Nuctech – are entitled to appoint sub-contractors without informing the other party.
But, Schlettwein maintained, no third party was involved in the deal.
It is alleged that Lameck, Yang and Mokaxwa duped government through the finance ministry to pay an inflated price of US$55,348,800 for scanners to be used at airports and border posts.
In fact, the State alleges, the price was inflated with an amount of US$12,828,800 meant as ‘commission’ for Teko Trading that facilitated the transaction.
Lameck and Mokaxwa alone face charges that they, while Mokaxwa was employed there and Lameck was the board chairman of Swapo-owned company Namib Contract Haulage, duped the company into buying them four tipper trucks valued at US$144,000.
The other charges – Lameck faces 18, Mokaxwa 12 and Yang 6 – relate to transgressions of the Immigration Control Act, the Prevention of Organised Crime Act and further contraventions of the Anti-Corruption Act.
The two Namibians and the Chinese national were arrested on July 8 and 9, 2009 in Windhoek.
Lameck and Mokaxwa are currently free on bail of N$50,000 each and Yang on bail of N$1 million.
The State is represented by Advocate Dominic Lisulo, assisted by Advocate Constance Moyo, and Advocate Gerson Hinda SC appears for the Teko Trio on instructions of Namandje.