Magistrate commits ‘irregularities’ in Fishrot bribery case

Home National Magistrate commits ‘irregularities’ in Fishrot bribery case
Magistrate commits ‘irregularities’ in Fishrot bribery case

The High Court has concluded the Windhoek Magistrate’s Court committed irregularities in handling the case of Fishrot accused James Hatuikulipi and co-accused Sakaria Kuutondokwa Kokule.

Hatuikulipi and Kokule’s case was sent for special review to set aside court proceedings of 10 November 2020 that were presided over by magistrate Ivan Gawanab.

The irregularities occurred when Hatuikulipi and Kokule’s co-accused Jason Iyambo pleaded guilty and was convicted – and there was a separation of cases. 

In this matter, Hatuikulipi and Kokule tendered no guilty pleas. The no-guilty plea tendered in the first case was transferred to the second case without the charges being put to Hatuikulipi and Kokule. 

The lower court’s request for a special review was a result of Hatuikulipi’s lawyer Gilroy Kasper in July, pointing out the state’s failure to furnish them with the prosecutor general’s decision for the second case for which the trial was scheduled to start on 28 July.  This led to the discovery of the irregularities committed during the court proceedings of 10 November 2020.

Judges Naomi Shivute and Herman January said with the facts at hand, the law requires when trials are separated; the trial must begin afresh and Hatuikulipi and Kokule should have been asked to plead afresh for the trial to begin. “In the absence of new pleas, the transfer of their not guilty pleas from the initial case to the new case and entry of not guilty in the J15 charge sheet of the new case constituted irregularities,” said the Judges.

They set aside the no guilty pleas, tendered by Hatuikulipi and Kokule, and remitted the case to the magistrate’s court. 

The court further ordered the matter to start afresh with new pleas. Hatuikulipi and Kokule are awaiting trial on charges, ranging from corruptly giving gratification as an inducement, bribery or improperly influencing an authorised officer and defeating or obstructing the course of justice.  Iyambo, who confessed and admitted guilt to the charges, has completed his nine months of imprisonment. 

In his plea statement, Iyambo implicated Hatuikulipi.  According to Iyambo, Hatuikulipi asked him to obtain bankcards of a co-accused in the Fishrot case, Pius Mwatelulo and a handwritten document, titled ‘Total Allocation’, which had also been seized by the ACC. Hatuikulipi wanted the Bank Windhoek cards for Omvindi Investment CC and Otuafika Logistics, issued to Mwatelulo.

Iyambo admitted he offered a bribe of N$250 000 to Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) investigator Junias Iipinge in Windhoek on 20 January 2020. 

However, the investigating officer went to his superiors at the ACC and reported the incident. –