Accused in N$3.5 billion customs fraud case to plead in 2019

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Maria Amakali

WINDHOEK – Eight of ten people accused of fraud and money laundering to the value of N$3.5 billion are scheduled to tender their pleas next year.

Tao Huizhong, Julius Laurentius, Zhu Honggang, Yuiqua Jack Huang, Zhihua Gua, Hongying Jia, Shuhua Cao, Dadi Li and Ying Zhang were all arrested for allegedly having a hand in the N$3.5 billion loss incurred by the Ministry of Finance between 2010 and 2016. Zhu Honggang passed on last year while Jinrong Huang is still at large.

The group made a brief appearance in the Windhoek Magistrate’s Court last week before Magistrate Vanessa Stanley. According to the State, investigations into the case have been finalised and the accused are expected to tender their preliminary pleas on January 25, 2019. Tao, who is due to travel out of the country, was allowed by the court to obtain his travelling documents from the investigating officer. The court order indicated that upon coming back Tao should return the documents to the investigating officer.

The prosecution is charging Tao with fraud, tax evasion and money laundering. According to police and forensic accounting evidence presented during the formal bail hearing, the ministry suffered losses of the substantial amount in question as a result of the under-declaration of the value of goods imported into Namibia and on which customs duties were supposed to be paid.

The suspects allegedly presented the same invoices repeatedly at the bank and at customs for clearance with huge a difference in the amount presented at the bank for deposit.

The evidence indicated that there was a huge difference in the amount presented at the bank for deposit and that presented at customs for clearance. The amount allegedly paid to foreign beneficiaries does not correlate to the amount on the invoices. The substantial amount is said to have been remitted to offshore accounts through a local bank.

The multimillion-dollar fraud and money laundering case involve more than 100 importers.

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