Deputy prosecutor general Cliff Lutibezi has dismissed the claim of Trevor Brockerhoff on behalf of Ricardo Gustavo that the Fishrot trial will take years to come to finalization, thus contravening his client’s right to a speedy trial.
During submissions on the ruling by Windhoek High Court Herman Oosthuizen on the bail application by Gustavo, Brockerhoff mentioned the Avid case, the Teckla Lameck case and the tax fraud case involving Angolan citizens which all took years to finalise. He further mentioned the treason trial, which took almost 16 years to finalise and where seven people are still on trial after spending almost 19 years in trial awaiting custody. In his estimation, Brockerhoff said, considering the number of the accused in the case, it will take one witness at least three days to go through his testimony and cross-examination.
Brockerhoff estimated that it would take at least 11 years for the trial to conclude, assuming there are no interlocutory applications and lengthy extradition hearings.
“No wishful thinking can mitigate that reality, he stated and continued: Taking the above cases highlighted into consideration, the current case, just on the available evidence and witness list, may definitely persist for about a decade before it is finalised. We submit that in those circumstances, the proper administration of justice will not be done by detaining the applicant and his co-accused for this period where there exists no evidence that they will not stand their trial.”
Brockerhoff also lambasted the possibility that, should the State succeed in its attempts to extradite lawyer Marèn de Klerk and Icelandic nationals Ingvar Júlíusson, Egill Helgi Árnason and Aðalsteinn Helgason, the number of accused will increase from 28 and the charges from 42 which will put further strain on the matter. Another matter that comes to mind, Brockerhoff said, is the ability of the accused persons to pay for the legal fees of their preferred legal representatives.
“This objective would definitely not be attainable should bail be denied as the applicant and his co-accused would not be in a position to raise funds to be able to afford representation of their choice.”
This, he said, strikes at the heart of the constitutional protection afforded under Article 12. He asked the court to grant his client bail as he had discharged the onus that he will stand his trial.
“Hold on,” said Lutibezi.
“They are looking at having one dedicated judge to hear the matter throughout on a continuous base and several prosecutors dedicated to this trial will be available in the course of the matter and it will be up to the defence counsels to avail themselves for the speedy finalisation of the matter,” he said.
He further said that the docket has been disclosed and the indictment and pre-trial memorandum has been served on the accused, which they are required to file by 22 January next year. From there, the matter will be allocated to a trial judge and the trial can start as soon as February next year, he stated.
According to Lutibezi, there are three witnesses whose testimonies are expected to be lengthy and these are Jóhannes Stefánsson, Moses Maurihungirire (the former ED in the ministry of fisheries) and the auditor.
Their testimonies are expected to take on average two to three weeks.
Gustavo is facing two counts of racketeering, two counts of money laundering, four counts of contravening the Anti-Corruption Act, three counts of fraud and conspiracy to commit fraud alternatively theft, and one main count of theft.
It is alleged by the State that Gustavo benefitted with at least N$22.4 million from the Fishrot scandal.
Lutibezi humbly asked the court to dismiss the application.
The judge indicated that he would deliver his ruling on 15 December 2021 at 10h00.