WINDHOEK - During the cross-examination of Paul Nakhom, a senior analyst at the Customs Division at the Ministry of Finance who was the second witness to testify for the State in the ongoing tax refund scam trial currently in the Windhoek High Court on Friday before Acting Judge Kobus Miller and his two assessors, John Mandy and Yolande Böttger several key issues relating to the process of claiming VAT refunds came to the fore.
For instance, it was revealed by Nakhom that not every Peter and Paul has access to the ASYCUDA system Customs use to capture data of claims forwarded to it.
In fact, it was said, you need a license from Customs to be able to access the system and in most instances, licenses are granted to eligible clearing agencies and not to people on the street. It was further established through cross-examination by Trevor Brockerhoff, appearing on behalf of three of the Angolan accused, that before Customs clears anything purchased for export, the items must be physically inspected and only if it corresponds with the information on the SAD 500 form will it be released and a copy of the SAD 500 availed to the importer or exporter to claim VAT. Brockerhoff also asked the witness whether he is aware if any of his clients were employed by the Ministry of Finance or Customs specifically or if they were clearing agents or worked for clearing agents to which Nakhom said not to his knowledge. He also said that one clearing agent cannot access the files of another agent.
Brockerhoff is representing Isaac Cativa Cupessala, Paquete Americo Kapayole Jose and Miapa Aurelio Nelson. They are charged together with Mamsy Mweneni Nuuyoma, Benvindo Momafuba, 48, Pembele Zimutu, 52, Joaquim Pedro Espanhol, 35, Joao Manuel Dos Santos, 38, Tatiana Luquena Muchado Gonga, 28, Carlos Victor Elisea, 33, Malakias Tomas Rufine, 29, Carlos Feleciano Tchinduku, 27, Lucio Jose Cazembe, 43 and Noah Boykie Naukosho, 28 with defrauding the government of N$210 million through falsified VAT claims. All have pleaded not guilty at the start of their trial to 629 counts of fraud alternatively theft, money laundering and corruptly giving a document containing false information to an agent. Charges were withdrawn against two of the original 16 Angolans after they absconded when given bail.
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.
According to the lawyers representing the accused, their clients all do not dispute that they claimed VAT refunds, but that it was done within the confines of the law. Naukosho who is representing himself is claiming that he is only an accused because of his association with Nuuyoma and Dos Santos and that he knew nothing of any underhand dealings.
Nuuyoma, 28, a Namibian citizen who worked at Aveshe Consultancy, who faces 626 counts including defeating or attempting to defeat the course of justice in addition to the other charges is said to be the mastermind behind the scam.
It is alleged she stole more than N$3.3 million in cahoots with Lukau Nestor, 56, an Angolan citizen who absconded after getting bail.
Advocate Winnie Christiaans is representing Nuuyoma, Vetu Uanivi is on record for Nestor, Momafuba and Eliseu; Theo Carollus for Gonga and Rufine and Mekumbu Tjiteere for Tchinduku and Cazembe, Kalundu Kamwi is representing Dos Santos.
All the accused except Nuuyoma, Nestor, Momafuba, Zimutu, Gonga, Cupessala, Cazembe and Naukosho are in custody.