• October 29th, 2020
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Fishrot accused Nghipunya ‘just a pawn’, says lawyer

The Windhoek High Court will deliver on 28 October its ruling on the appeal lodged by suspended Fishcor CEO Mike Nghipunya after deputy chief magistrate Ingrid Unengu refused him bail in the ongoing Fishrot matter. 
Judges Christie Liebenberg and Claudia Claasen are presiding over the bail appeal. 
The 35-year-old Nghipunya, who has been in custody since February, wants to be released on bail pending his trial on charges of fraud, contravening the Anti-Corruption Act and corruptly using office for gratification, as well as money laundering.  

In this case, Nghipunya is charged alongside former fisheries minister Bernhard Esau, former minister of justice Sacky Shanghala, former Investec Asset Management Namibia managing director James Hatuikulipi, Esau’s son-in-law Tamson Hatuikulipi and Pius Mwatelulo. 

On the charge of corruptly using office for gratification, the prosecution is alleging that Nghipunya, alongside Esau, Shanghala and James, used their offices or positions in a public body to obtain gratification to obtain N$75.6 million that was paid to them or entities of their choice between August 2014 and December 2019. 
He denied the charges and said in an affidavit, read into the record by his lawyer Advocate Thabang Phatella, instructed by Milton Engelbrecht, that he has no idea why he has been charged. 

Nghipunya also stated he fails to understand how he could be charged with the alleged crimes of which he is being accused and that he had no intention to act unlawfully in his duties as CEO of the state-owned Fishcor. 
Phatella argued yesterday that the magistrate erred when she found that Nghipunya is a threat to the investigations into the Fishrot scandal. 
According to him, Nghipunya was just a pawn in the grand scheme of things and is now being crucified for merely doing his job. 

He said that Nghipunya only obeyed orders given to him by his boss. 
He further said no evidence exists that Nghipunya is a flight risk. 
With regards to Nghipunya interfering in investigations, he said no evidence exists of his client ever trying to influence the investigations in any way. 

He maintained the evidence against his client is not as rock-solid as the prosecution would have the court believe. 
Cliff Lutibezi, on behalf of prosecution, argued the magistrate did not err when she made her ruling to deny Nghipunya bail. 
In any event, he said, the High Court can only interfere in a ruling of a lower court if it is absolutely certain that the magistrate made a wrong decision. 
He said magistrate Unengu gave a well-reasoned and articulated ruling in which she set out her reasons for refusing Nghipunya bail and the High Court have no reason to interfere with it. 

Roland Routh
2020-10-16 07:25:22 13 days ago

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