Namibia: Namandje denies money laundering claims

23 Apr 2020

Lawyer Sisa Namandje, who is resisting attempts by the Law Society of Namibia to get access to some of his law firm's financial records, is denying that he and his firm were involved in money laundering or other crimes connected to the Fishrot fishing quotas corruption scandal.

Namandje's denials are contained in an affidavit filed at the Windhoek High Court on Thursday.

In the affidavit, Namandje not only denies suggestions that the trust account of his law firm, Sisa Namandje & Co Inc, had been used for money laundering and that he may have facilitated bribery, but also accuses the Law Society of irregularly trying to have his firm's accounts inspected and denies that the firm has refused to cooperate with the society's inspection.

The sworn statement was filed at the court in response to an application in which the Law Society is asking the court to grant a search and seizure warrant that would authorise the legal practitioners' body to enter the offices of Namandje's firm and seize records as part of an investigation of the use of the firm's trust account.

The Law Society near the end of last year launched an investigation into a number of law firms in the wake of allegations that the firms had been involved in financial transactions of companies alleged to have had a hand in corruption and bribery related to the allocation of fishing quotas in Namibia.

In a sworn statement also filed at the court, the director of the Law Society, Retha Steinmann, is alleging that undercover visual recordings that were part of a documentary programme broadcast by the Al Jazeera television channel late last year indicate that Namandje expressed readiness to facilitate money laundering using his firm's trust account, and that it appeared the trust account had been used for the same purpose in the past as well.

Steinmann also claims that Namandje has been refusing to cooperate with the Law Society in its investigation, necessitating its application for a search and seizure warrant.

Namandje is denying Steinmann's allegations in his statement. He says he has repeatedly offered to have a meeting with the Law Society in person, but his offer has been refused, and charges that it is the Law Society, rather than he and his firm, which has been uncooperative by refusing to provide him with information about the allegations made against him and his firm to enable them to respond to those claims.

He is also accusing the Law Society of having leaked information about its investigation to the media. According to Namandje, confidential and privileged information about clients of his firm was also leaked to the media. He claims that because of the alleged leaks he has lost faith in the society and does not trust it to handle information about his clients that might be in the records the society wants to get from his firm.

The records that the Law Society wants from his firm are confidential, as these are covered by the principle of attorney-client privilege, which prevents a lawyer from divulging information that a client entrusted to him in confidence, Namandje says in his affidavit.

While responding to the Law Society's application for a search and seizure warrant, Namandje has also filed a counter-application, in which he is asking the court to declare one of the society's rules, which allows it to ask a judge in chambers to issue a search and seizure warrant, as unconstitutional. He is further asking the court to declare a section of the Legal Practitioners Act of 1995, which allows the Law Society to make rules regarding the investigation of complaints against legal practitioners, as unconstitutional as well.

Source : Namibian