The battle to gain access to records of prominent attorney Sisa Namandje law firm’s trust account began yesterday in the Windhoek High Court, with the lawyer questioning the powers of the Law Society of Namibia (LSN).
The LSN approached the court to attain a search and seizure warrant to allow it to inspect the records of Namandje’s law firm Sisa Namandje & Co Inc trust account.
However, yesterday, Namandje brought a counter application to have Rule 22 (6) (g) of the LSN declared by the court out of law and unconstitutional.
The said rule stipulates the law society may approach the judge in chambers to obtain a search warrant to enter or seize client records of the member of concern, the financial records of the firm/law practice of the member concerned without notice, any oath being made and without necessarily making a written application.
“The Law Society says that Rule 22(6) (g) is authorised by section 52(1) (c), or (g). But it is exactly here where the problem lies. If these subsections authorise the obtaining of a search warrant, they interfere with the substantive constitutional right of attorney-client privilege,” argued Namandje’s lawyer Raymond Heathcote.
Heathcote further argued that Rule 22 (6) (g) falls short, as it does not comply with Article 13 of the Namibian constitution, which points out that attorney-client privilege is a principle of fundamental justice.
Making his argument further, Heathcote highlighted to the court that the law requires a complaint against a lawyer or his/her firm to be lodged before the regulatory body can conduct an investigation.
Heathcote emphasised there was no complaint lodged against Namandje or his law firm.
“The decision to lodge this application lacks legality, amounted to an abdication of powers and omits to prove or even state that the director came to the conclusion that we are not cooperating. Thus, this entire application is therefore fatally flawed,” said Heathcote.
The LSN, which was being represented by Uno Katjipuka-Sibolile, said the application at hand is not to determine if Namandje or his firm engaged in money laundering and thereby violated the law regulating the keeping of trust accounts.
Katjipuka-Sibolile said the issue at hand is to determine if the action taken by the LSN council to investigate Namandje’s conduct was lawfully made in accordance with the Legal Practitioner’s Act and Rule 22 of the law society.
She further argued members of the legal profession are by law required to be members of the LSN and subject to the rules governing the legal profession.
“Allowing legal practitioners to defy the law society’s legitimate request to inspect their books will spell the end of the law society to pursue its important objectives. The system of self-regulation becomes morally and legally untenable,” Katjipuka-Sibolile maintained.
She will continue with her argument this morning.
Namandje’s law firm came under scrutiny after the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) brought to the attention of the LSN their concerns about suspicious transactions involving Namandje law firm’s trust account that they picked up.
It is alleged that dubious transactions amounting to N$23 million, which are linked to the fishing bribery scandal, were deposited into Namandje’s law firm’s trust account. This money was then paid out to several politicians and businessmen.
2020-05-14 10:13:45 | 3 months ago