By Shinovene Immanuel and Werner Menges | 21 August 2018
SUSPECTED criminal activities involving a fishing company co-owned by the national intelligence service were declared a “national security” by a court to block the public from knowing about the case.
The criminal case implicates a high-ranking official in the Namibia Central Intelligence Service, who was charged with multiple counts of fraud and corruption.
The first appearance of the accused man took place behind closed doors in the Windhoek Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday last week.
The presiding magistrate, Walter Mikiti, ordered that the official court record of the case, which would normally be a public record, should be kept under wraps and not be made available to the media after a public prosecutor asked for such an order to be made on the grounds of “national security”.
It appears that one of the reasons for keeping this case secret is to protect a spy who has worked in the intelligence service for many years.
However, The Namibian understands that the man – his name is known, but is being withheld – was charged with multiple counts of fraud, the corrupt use of his office or position to obtain gratification, and money laundering.
The charges are understood to involve the alleged embezzlement of more than N$17 million.
While attempts to get more information through the Office of the Prosecutor General have not been fruitful, a source who has been briefed on the matter informed The Namibian yesterday that the charges stem from a business joint venture between the Namibian intelligence service and its Mozambican counterpart.
The source said part of the joint venture was that the two intelligence services were to receive fishing quotas from the Namibian and Mozambican governments, with the money made from that venture meant to be used to fund intelligence work.
According to the source, money derived from the quotas was diverted into the pockets of some individuals, instead of being used to fund intelligence activities.
A source said this case was investigated by former deputy inspector general Vilho Hifindaka, who was posted to Congo Brazzaville as ambassador in 2014.
Sources said Hifindaka investigated this matter between 2003 and 2011. Hifindaka was unreachable for comment.
Another source said yesterday that talk about a loss of money from the Namibian-Mozambican fishing joint venture made the rounds in the intelligence community during 2012.
Intelligence officials at the time did not want the matter to become public, as it was feared that it would make them look “weak”, the source said.
According to the criminal register number of the case, it was registered with the Namibian Police in October 2013.
The 56-year-old accused was granted bail in an amount of N$40 000. His case was transferred to the High Court, where he has to make a first pre-trial appearance on 18 October.
The Namibia Central Intelligence Service (NCIS) received a budget allocation of N$124,6 million in the national budget for the 2018/19 financial year. In the 2017/18 financial year, its budget allocation stood at N$161,4 million.
News about the fraud in the intelligence sector comes around two months after the High Court dismissed an attempt by the government and the director general of the NCIS to prevent a weekly newspaper, The Patriot, from publishing an article about the alleged misuse of government properties by former members of the spy service.
“The NCIS operates in the context of a democratic state founded on the rule of law, which rule subjects all public officials and all those exercising public functions, whether openly or covertly, in the interest of the state, to judicial scrutiny,” judge Harald Geier stated at the time.