WINDHOEK – Former Namibia Wildlife Resort (NWR) managing director Tobie Aupindi, a rising star in Swapo politics who was yesterday convicted of lying to an authorised officer of the law, could still be poised for a career in politics.
In an unprecedented day at court yesterday, Aupindi, who received the most number of votes to the Swapo politburo in December 2017, was convicted and sentenced the same day.
The 44-year-old is also a member of the ruling party’s highly-revered central committee.
Having been convicted in the morning on both the main charge of corruptly providing false information to an authorised officer of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) and the alternative charge of attempting to defeat or obstruct the course of justice, Aupindi and Italian businessman Antonio di Savino – who was convicted on the same charges - returned to court in the afternoon for sentencing.
Handing down her long-awaited judgment, Magistrate Helvi Shilemba said that the state proved beyond reasonable doubt that Aupindi and his co-accused were guilty of providing false information to an ACC officer on March, 18, 2010 in respect of the construction of a N$50 000 swimming pool at Aupindi’s residence in Windhoek in 2006.
It is alleged that Di Savino paid N$50 000 for the swimming pool in exchange for tenders for the refurbishment of NWR resorts in several parts of the country.
At the time the pool was installed, Di Savino was doing business with NWR, where Aupindi was still in charge as managing director.
Magistrate Shilemba consequently sentenced Aupindi and Di Savino to pay a fine in the amount of N$50 000 or spend 30 months in prison each.
Aupindi, by virtue of his raising popularity in Swapo politics, is among those seen as natural front-runners for parliamentary seats when Swapo holds its elective electoral college next year ahead of the 2019 general elections.
Article 47 of the Namibian Constitution states that an individual is disqualified from becoming a member of parliament if they have been convicted of an offence and served a prison term of more than 12 months without an option of a fine.
In Aupindi’s case, however, he would still qualify for parliament – should he stand – as he was alternatively sentenced to pay a fine.
During mitigation arguments yesterday, Aupindi’s defence attorney Richard Metcalfe informed the court that his client was likely to lose his positions on both the politburo and central committee because of the conviction.
Metcalfe further noted that Aupindi has already suffered from trauma, irreparable damage, financial loss and loss of business opportunities due to the nature of the allegations.
“The offence that my client is convicted off is not fraud or corruption. He merely provided false information. His actions did not cause any person or organisation financial prejudice,” said Metcalfe.
However, Magistrate Shilemba said that the court cannot be held accountable for the loss or damage that Aupindi will suffer as a result of the conviction.
Aupindi and Di Savino have been standing trial for over six years on a main charge of corruptly providing false information to an authorised officer of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), and an alternative charge of attempting to defeat or obstruct the course of justice.
The two are amongst the first persons to be convicted on such a charge in Namibia.