The Namibian has learnt that the country‚Äôs biggest commercial bank failed to adhere to strict anti-money laundering regulations when it allowed the N$74 million in question to be channeled through it.
Authorities are investigating an elaborate scheme where a non-existent person used a fake passport to register two businesses (close corporations) and several bank accounts that were then used to move the money.
Transactions took place between February and July last year and involved at least five suspects, four of whom have vanished.
Law enforcement sources said that FNB reported the possible money laundering activities around June last year, only after police began looking into the transactions. By the time the commercial bank reported the case, N$700 000 was all that remained in the two companies‚Äô accounts.
The Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) flagged the transactions in June last year and then reported the matter to the police to take a closer look.
FNB was pleading ignorance to The Namibian about the investigation, despite the fact that court documents confirm the matter.
The Namibian understands that officials in the bank‚Äôs treasury and foreign exchange divisions have been questioned by police regarding the said transactions.
FNB, responding through spokesperson Victoria Muranda, said the bank ‚Äúis a responsible business with strong ethics and a zero tolerance for non-compliance of the laws and regulations of the country.‚Äù
Muranda said the bank reports all suspicious transactions as described in the regulations. She added that to protect the parties concerned, authorities do not keep the bank informed of developments in their investigations.
‚ÄúWe are, therefore, neither able nor authorised to respond to your questions,‚Äù Muranda said in her emailed reply to specific questions.
FNB remained adamant that it was in compliance with the law.
Should FNB be found not to have complied with the anti-money laundering laws, the Bank of Namibia can impose a maximum administrative fine of N$10 million. But if criminally convicted, the courts may impose a fine of N$100 million or send the bank‚Äôs management to prison for 30 years, in terms of the Financial Intelligence Act.
Law enforcement sources from the prosecution and police expressed frustration over the FIC‚Äôs reluctance to act against FNB‚Äôs non-compliance.
Bank of Namibia spokesperson Ndangi Katoma told The Namibian that the Financial Intelligence Centre was prohibited, by law, to provide information to the media.
Prosecutor general Martha Imalwa states in an affidavit that FNB failed to verify and detect the questionable nature of the accounts and those who opened them.
Law enforcement agencies investigating the case believe that the money was destined to fund terrorism activities linked to Hizbollah and the broader Middle East.
The N$74 million was channelled through accounts belonging to Fort-Nox Distribution CC and Georgetown Investment CC. Fort-Nox Distribution CC had, between February and June last year, channelled over N$43 million into the country and out again. Georgetown Investment CC saw N$28 million come into its accounts from abroad and moved out of the country again, within two days.
Money going into both accounts came from a South African company called Bustque (Pty) Limited. When the money was in Namibia it was then channeled back to South Africa to another outfit by the name Kit Kat Group Pty Ltd.
Fort-Nox and Georgetown used fictitious customs documents to hoodwink the bank in believing that the transactions were authentic.
According to foreign exchange regulations, a bank is obliged to receive customs documents related to payments that a local entity is making for goods purchased outside Namibia.
Imalwa‚Äôs affidavit stated that despite FNB having requested for the import export documents, it received a ‚Äúfew fictitious documents purported to be from the Ministry of Finance‚Äôs customs and excise directorate‚Äù.
The Namibian has learned that authorities traced part of the money to bank accounts held in Canada, China and the United Arab Emirates, more specifically Dubai.
Fort-Nox Distributors and Georgetown Investment belong to a Simon Hafeni Petrus who registered them on the same day, 11 February 2014. Petrus, who registered the companies and opened the bank accounts, is a non-existent person, authorities said.
When authorities took a closer look at the two bank accounts, three other names popped up. Sohum Subhash Metha, James Shah and Gurraj Ghotra‚Äôs names appeared more in the two companies‚Äô financial transactions than that of the so-called owner Petrus.
Metha, Shah and Ghotra vanished from Windhoek around July last year when it became apparent they were being investigated. Authorities said that the trio disappeared overnight.
During their investigations authorities also discovered that Petrus, Metha, Shah and Ghotra all used fraudulent Namibian passports when dealing with FNB. This also happened when Metha opened his personal account with the bank during the same period.
Authorities believe Simon Hafeni Petrus to be a false identity because the only trace authorities have to him is a fake passport.
Authorities traced the fictitious passports to former ministry of home affairs and immigration employee Joel Archy Kafula. Kafula is the son of controversial former Windhoek mayor and current member of parliament Agnes Kafula. Joel Kafula was based at the ministry‚Äôs Swakopmund office at the time. He allegedly processed the passports by using payment receipts of citizens who legitimately applied for passports at the Swakopmund office.
Joel Kafula resigned from the ministry in July last year, the same month police started probing the transactions. He is still being sought by the police to answer criminal charges. The Namibian was unable to trace Kafula for comment.