By Tileni Mongudhi | 6 June 2022
PROSECUTOR general Martha Imalwa says she has information that “certain money” entered Namibia amid concerns that South African president Cyril Ramaphosa roped in president Hage Geingob to trace part of the N$60 million in cash stolen from his farm.
Imalwa yesterday told The Namibian the case did not go far because Namibian officials did not get assistance from South Africa.
Her comments come less than a week after a former South African spy boss and prisons head, Arthur Fraser, accused Ramaphosa of kidnapping and bribery in a case he registered with the South African Police on Wednesday.
In a 48-page witness statement, Fraser alleged that criminals, mostly Namibians, broke into Ramaphosa’s Phala Phala game farm in the Limpopo province in February 2020 to steal more than US$4 million (around N$60 million) hidden in furniture.
Fraser said: “The mere fact that Ramaphosa had large undisclosed sums of foreign currency in the form of US$ concealed in his furniture at his Phala Phala residence is prima facie proof of money laundering.”
Some of it was allegedly transferred to Namibian accounts between February and May 2020.
According to Fraser, Ramaphosa quietly asked Geingob to help find the suspects in Namibia using unofficial channels.
“President [Ramaphosa] sought the assistance of the president of Namibia, Hage Geingob, in apprehending the suspects in Namibia,” Fraser said, suggesting a high-level cover-up between the two heads of state in concealing the theft, which is believed to have been committed by a gang of Namibians living in South Africa.
Questions sent to Geingob’s office on his alleged potential role in this cover-up were not responded to yesterday.
Imalwa yesterday said no property was seized because the South African authorities did not provide evidence that a crime was committed in South Africa, and no complainant was named.
She said the initial investigation was based on the fact that suspicious banking transactions were detected with money from South Africa entering Namibia.
Attempts to get the South African authorities to assist in the investigation proved futile, she said.
“What I know is that Immanuwel David was prosecuted on different charges. So far I don’t know about money being alleged to be part of that burglary,” she said.
“The money we enquired about could not be linked to any offence. There was no information that it was stolen,” Imalwa said.
She said Namibia’s organised crime law allows her office room to pursue the case should South African authorities provide her with the required information, which she cannot force them to do.
In 2020, Namibian authorities had already confisticated two VW Golfs, a VW bus, a Ford Ranger pickup, a Toyota Hilux and a Toyota Land Cruiser pickup from some of the suspects.
They were also monitoring a guest house at Outapi said to have been bought with the proceeds of the stolen money, and froze a number of bank accounts.
Namibian security sources said the South African government was denying the incident, allegedly because Ramaphosa may find it difficult to explain the cash in his house and the security breach.
RAMAPHOSA’S RANCH MONEY HEIST
An investigation by The Namibian and its South African partners amaBhungane points to a major cover-up of the 2020 theft.
The criminal complaint against Ramaphosa laid by former spy boss Fraser on Wednesday has massively raised the stakes over what exactly happened in the days following the break-in on 9 February 2020.
Ramaphosa’s presidential spokesperson, Vincent Magwenya, on Saturday sent a message in response to questions from amaBhungane, saying:
“Because of the volume of detailed questions we have received, most of which we cannot answer due to pending investigation, we are going to release a statement later to address the issue.”
Fraser’s witness statement laid down how the robbery was executed by Namibians on 9 February 2020.
According to him, two robbers entered the perimeters of Ramaphosa’s farm at around 22h17 on 9 February 2020 by cutting wires.
Video footage shows that two of the assailants were seen outside the farm at 00h33, removing the window where entry was gained.
“Entry was gained through a window on the ground floor of the president’s main residence on the farm,” he said.
Fraser said security camera footage from an internal camera shows some of the suspects were still inside the house by around 01h44.
He said undisclosed sums of US dollars, concealed in the furniture, were stolen from the farm.
The former spy boss said the incident was not officially reported to the police to investigate.
“Ramaphosa instructed major general Walter Rhoode to immediately investigate the incident, to apprehend the suspects, and to retrieve the stolen money.”
Fraser said the stolen US dollars were exchanged for South African rands at an informal foreign exchange service in Cape Town.
He named the Namibian suspects: Umbanus Lomboleni Shaumbwako, Petrus Fikeipo Muhekeni, Erkki Shikongo, Petrus Afrikaner and Immanuel David, who is Namibian-born, but also has South African citizenship.
He said the suspects started splashing the spoils stolen from the president’s ranch.
Fraser said one suspect (Mukekeni) bought a 2019 Ford Ranger 2.0TDCi Wildtrak 4×4 bakkie.
The next day, another suspect (Shikongo) allegedly transferred N$300 000 into a First National Bank account.
On 16 February 2020, Shikongo reportedly transferred another N$415 000 into a bank account.
Fraser said a red Volkswagen GTI was subsequently registered in the name of another suspect, Shaumbwako, on 19 February 2020.
Another suspect was traced and found to have fled to Namibia, he said.
This is when Ramaphosa allegedly sought the assistance of Geingob in apprehending the suspect in Namibia.
In the statement, Fraser alleges that the head of Ramaphosa’s protection unit, Rhoode, crossed into Namibia undetected using government resources to search for the suspects.
His mission in Namibia was to interview and seize money from a suspect believed to have been part of the gang who stole from Ramaphosa.
According to Fraser’s statement, Rhoode had not been legally processed through border control when he left and re-entered South Africa.
Around 12 June 2020, David allegedly sneaked into Namibia by crossing the Orange River in a canoe.
Former Fishcor finance general manager Paulus Ngalangi collected David at Noordoewer border and transported him to Windhoek with his car – accompanied by a policeman Hendrick Hidipo Nghede.
Ngalangi – who allegedly has close ties to Fishrot accused and suspected mastermind James Hatuikulipi – was a person of interest to the authorities at the time of David’s arrest.
Namibian authorities also looked at the possibility that David’s mission to Namibia may have been linked to the Fishrot corruption scandal, and that he may have been used to courier money into the country for the Fishrot accused in custody.
David was arrested after illegally crossing into Namibia on or around 14 June 2020.
He was the third suspect to have attracted the Namibian Police’s attention in the Ramaphosa heist, and was believed to have been the kingpin.
According to a Namibian Police statement, David was in possession of a TAG Heuer watch worth N$28 000, a Rolex watch worth N$ 280 000, and a gold chain worth N$163 000, plus eleven US$100 notes.
He was widely reported as a Covid-19 fugitive, who crossed into the country during the nationwide lockdown.
People close to him at the time said David never tested positive for Covid-19.
Sources said the authorities used Covid-19 as an excuse to keep him quarantined as a means of detaining him to be grilled in Namibia by South African state security agents.
Government sources said the South African authorities at the time appeared reluctant to assist or provide information on David.
It appears Rhoode entered Namibia to look for the stolen money at the same time.
The Namibian traced a source who previously worked at Phala-Phala, and is in contact with David regularly.
He says the allegations of kidnapping are credible.
The source says he was informed by one of his former colleagues that Ramaphosa’s domestic helper, whose name is Froliana, was locked in a room on the farm for about two to three days with her brother.
The two were apparently interrogated by a number of officials who were thought to be either police officer or intelligence.
“They asked them so many questions the whole day until 2am the following day.”
According to Fraser’s statement, at least five suspects were paid N$150 000 each on instruction of Ramaphosa for their silence.
In November 2020, David pleaded guilty to minor charges under the Namibian Immigration Act.
He paid a fine of N$20 000 in respect of his sentence and was released on the same day.
A 48-hour notice was issued to him by an immigration officer to leave the country, and David left Namibia via Noordoewer border post on 14 November 2020 at about 08h00.
Because the South African authorities were reluctant to acknowledge the robbery and the request to assist Namibian authorities, Imalwa was forced to drop all investigations and charges, and to return the seized property to the suspects.
The Namibian on Saturday tried to contact David via WhatsApp.
The recipient claimed we had the wrong number, despite it being confirmed by one of David’s friends.
Namibian law-enforcement agencies were alerted to about N$6 million (about R6 million) transferred by the suspects into Namibian accounts between February and May 2020.
The authorities on two occasions intercepted two vehicles travelling from South Africa, and searched them for money supposedly hidden in panels and tyres.
No money was found, but the authorities started investigating the allegations that money stolen from Ramaphosa’s farm was being laundered into Namibia.
South Africa issued a statement last week, saying: “President Ramaphosa is clear that there is no basis for the claims of criminal conduct that have been made against him in Mr Fraser’s statement.”
The South African presidency confirmed that a robbery took place at the president’s farm in which proceeds from the sale of game were stolen while Ramaphosa was attending an African Union summit in Addis Ababa.
“On being advised of the robbery, president Ramaphosa reported the incident to the head of the presidential protection unit of the South African police service for investigation.”