/ 18 July 2009

Nuctec ‘corruption’ spreads to Namibia

In a sensational case that is sending shudders through Namibia’s political elite, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) arrested two people late last week in a R42-million kickback case that is set to engulf Hu Haifeng, the eldest son of China’s President Hu Jintao.

Last Wednesday ACC investigators arrested Teckla Lameck, a Namibian businesswoman, and Chinese national Yang Fan, after it emerged that a ”manufacturing deposit” of R42-million had been paid to them for a R500-million Chinese scanning equipment deal.

A third suspect and Lameck’s partner, Kongo Mokoxwa, was also arrested last Friday and will be held without bail until July 22, like his other two co-accused. More arrests among Namibia’s high-flying businessmen can be expected as investigators follow the trail of cash through various bank accounts.

Lameck, Yang and Mokoxwa are being held on charges of fraud, bribery and corruption, with more warrants to be executed soon, according to sources close to the investigation. They have not been asked to plead yet, but the state refused bail on the grounds that they could interfere with the investigation.

The arrests were triggered by a routine inquiry instigated under Namibia’s new money-laundering legislation, which requires local banks to report any suspicious movements of large sums of money.

The ACC has declined to comment on the case, but finance permanent secretary Calle Schlettwein confirmed that charges were laid after the Chinese company, Nuctec, was awarded an uncontested contract to supply R500-million of scanners to Namibia’s airports and harbours.

In 2007 the Mail & Guardian revealed that Nuctec had won a R3-billion tender to supply scanners to the South African Revenue Service. Their local agent, the M&G reported, was Africa Strategic Asset Protection, a company we showed had corruptly won security contracts at Parliament.

Nuctec’s president, Hu Haifeng, has become embroiled in a similar scandal in the Philippines. Although Schlettwein opposed the deal being done outside the ambit of the local tender board, he appears to have been overruled by Finance Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila.

In terms of the Namibian contract, China gave Namibia a soft loan of R500-million on condition that the tender for providing scanning equipment was awarded to Nuctec. Of this, about 40%, or $12.8-million, was payable immediately as a ”manufacturing deposit” to Nuctec to start manufacturing the scanners.

Schlettwein had authorised the transfer of the money to the Chinese Import Export Bank’s account — only to discover from a routine inquiry under the new Financial Intelligence Act that the entire amount was immediately paid into the account of a company owned by Lameck and Yang, Teko Trading CC.

This account was emptied in 12 weeks by Yang and Lameck, with R42-million allegedly distributed among other businessmen associated with senior Swapo members.

In an affidavit submitted to court, ACC chief investigator Nelius Becker said R16,8-million was paid into Yang’s own account, whereas Lameck withdrew R9,39-million and Mokoxwa received R8-million.

A further R8-million was disbursed among other people, including large amounts paid to John Nauta, a special adviser to former president Sam Nujoma, and playboy Knowledge Katti, believed to be close to Hage Geingob, the trade and industry minister and former prime minister.

A local lecturer, Lance Hauuanga, also received R1,3-million for what he claimed was ”repayment” of an outstanding debt by the Lameck couple, who serve on the boards of various state-owned enterprises, including railway operator TransNamib, the military’s trading arm NamDeb, and Namcor, the state fuel company.

Lameck is also a member of the powerful Public Service Commission, but has never received permission to be involved in private business, the office of the prime minister said.

Evidence submitted by the ACC in the in camera hearing last week showed that the Lamecks, especially, went on a wild spending spree, blowing R9,39-million on luxury cars, a new farm and paying off the bond on their house.

Mokoxwa was said to have gone on a similar spree, receiving a Toyota Land Cruiser with a R250 000 sound system from Lameck’s husband Festus.

Lawyers for the accused have denied any wrongdoing by their clients, but declined to discuss how a ”manufacturing deposit” ended up being paid over immediately as commissions.

Lameck and Yang, who set up Teko Trading CC well in advance of the Nuctec deal, were never involved in any negotiations with the ministry of finance in this respect, Schlettwein said.

All the accused will make a second appearance in court on July 22.