The trial of a Namibian man, who allegedly operated a Ponzi scheme and is accused of defrauding 79 persons to the tune of N$4.3 million, returned to court this week after a hiatus of several months.
The matter is now again before the court for the State to present its evidence after Sakaria Megameno Namwandi and his close corporation Asset Legacy Investment pleaded not guilty to all counts in November last year in the Windhoek High Court before Judge Naomi Shivute. Namwandi and his entity are facing 123 charges of fraud, alternatively theft by false pretenses; one count of money laundering; one count of racketeering; one count of conducting banking business while not authorised, and one count of conducting a Ponzi scheme.
In addition, he is charged with two counts of tax evasion and two counts of failure to pay tax. On Monday, one of the complainants in the matter testified that she invested N$5 000 with Namwandi with the promise that she would receive her investment with 50% interest after 30 days. However, the elderly woman has to date not received a single cent of her money from the accused, despite several promises to refund her.
It is alleged that Namwandi was the sole member of Asset Legacy Investment CC, and he had the duty to conduct legitimate business on behalf of the entity and facilitate the reception of legitimate business funds held at various banks.
The State claims that he formulated and operated a Ponzi scheme in which he, through the entity, advertised two types of investment facilities to members of the public, through face-to-face interactions as well as social media platforms under the guise that the invested funds would be traded on foreign exchange platforms with a return of 50% within 30 days.
The fraud charges relate to Namwandi and his entity telling his various investors that they were running a legitimate business and authorised to receive investments from members of the public, while they knew they had no lawful authority to conduct banking business and were, thus, not authorised to receive any deposits or investments from members of the public.
Regarding the charge of money-laundering, it is alleged that the accused used the ill-gotten funds to purchase a Mercedes Benz vehicle for his personal use, and that he used part of the funds received from investors to settle rentals for a leased residential property that was also used as an office.
In relation to the charge of racketeering, it is alleged that during June 2019 to October 2019, the accused, acting in connivance with another in a partnership, contrived to facilitate the receipt of illegal deposits and transfers of funds that were fraudulently obtained from investors. The conducting of banking business without authorisation relates to the accused conducting a banking business without authorisation by receiving, accepting or taking regular deposits from members of the public in contravention of the Banking Institutions Act during the above period.
The charge of conducting a Ponzi scheme relates to the accused during the period of June 2019 to October 2019 wrongfully and unlawfully having become involved in the conduct of an undesirable practice by accepting or obtaining money, directly or indirectly and paying previous investors with funds invested by new members.
The tax evasion and failure to pay tax charges are that having registered as a taxpayer, Namwandi falsely declared to the finance ministry that he had no taxable income for the years 2019 to 2020, while in actual fact he had N$3.1 million in various bank accounts, and he failed to pay tax in the amount of N$1 million.
The trial is set to run until 28 April. Namwandi, who is on bail, is represented by Joseph Andreas.