WINDHOEK - Maternity leave is between employers and employees and not between an accused and the court, Acting Judge of the Windhoek High Court Kobus Miller said yesterday.
He made these remarks when he summoned the doctor that delivered the baby of the main accused in the mega tax refund trial currently before the High Court to explain why the accused cannot attend court proceedings.
Judge Miller wanted to know why Mamsy Mweneni Nuuyoma, 28, a Namibian citizen who worked at Aveshe Consultancy, the company managing VAT refunds on behalf of the finance ministry at the time the frauds were committed, and facing 192 counts including defeating or attempting to defeat the course of justice, in addition to the other charges, cannot be at court despite the fact she already delivered a baby recently.
He questioned a medical letter from a doctor at the Windhoek Central Hospital’s maternity ward who issued a sick leave certificate declaring Nuuyoma is not in a state to attend court.
Judge Miller asked State Advocate Henry Muhongo to see to it the doctor that issued the letter attends court to explain.
The judge who is assisted by two assessors, John Mandy and Yolande Böttger, also granted one of the defence lawyers, Johan van Vuuren, leave to withdraw from the trial as his schedule conflicts with the dates of the trial. He will be replaced by Advocate Winnie Christians for Nuuyoma, Joao Manuel Dos Santos and Lucio Jose Cazembe who is currently hospitalised.
The judge was also informed that another of the Angolan accused wants to plead guilty to the charges he faces. Joachim Pedro Espanhol, 36, who is represented by Apolos Shimakaleni, faces 10 counts of fraud amounting to N$947 399.
Judge Miller indicated Shimakaleni may submit his case when the trial resumes on Thursday and if the state accepts the guilty plea, the matter will be referred to another judge.
Judge Miller told the assembled lawyers he is anxious to start with the trial as it is coming on for the last four years with some of the accused languishing in jail for that time.
The indictment has in the meantime been amended and the charges now stand at 677 up from the original 512 counts of money laundering and corruptly giving a document containing false information to an agent. Two of the accused already pleaded guilty last year and were sentenced to pay fines of N$30 000 and N$50 000 respectively. The remaining 14 Angolans and two Namibians are expected to plead not guilty to all charges and deny any wrongdoing.
The amount involved in the massive value added tax fraud scam has more than doubled from the initial N$114 million to more than N$210 million, it emerged from the indictment document.
It is alleged the accused were involved in the use of forged tax invoices, VAT claim forms and customs documentation to claim VAT refunds from the Ministry of Finance.
Vetu Uanivi is now on record for Lukau Nestor, Benvindo Momafuba and Carlos Eliseu; Trevor Brockerhoff for Pembele Zimutu, Isaac Cupessala, Paquete Jose and Miapa Nelson; George Neves for Tatiana Gonga and Malakias Rufine and Mekumbu Tjiteere for Carlos Tchinduku, while Namibian Noah Naukosho is representing himself.
All the accused except Nuuyoma, Nestor, Momafuba, Zimutu, Gonga, Cupessala, Gourgel, Cazembe and Naukosho are in custody.