PROMINENT South African lawyers, Mike Hellens and Dawie Joubert, were each sentenced to pay fines totaling N$10 000 after they entered a guilty plea on two counts of contravening the Namibia Immigration Control Act in the Windhoek Magistrate’s Court.
Hellens and Joubert were arrested at court earlier on Friday while they were preparing to represent former fisheries minister Bernhard Esau and former justice minister Sacky Shanghala, as well as the four businessmen who were all arrested on charges of, amongst others, corruption, fraud and money laundering. The six accused in what is now known as the Fishrot corruption scandal on Wednesday appeared before Magistrate Linus Shamunzala Shamunzala. The formal bail application was set down to start on Friday morning.
After their arrest, the high powered lawyers were escorted to police holding cells where they spent most of the day. The prominent lawyers from South Africa solicited the services of local Senior Advocate Essi Schimming-Chase and were afforded an urgent appearance before Magistrate Venatius Alweendo later on Friday afternoon. Both entered guilty pleas on the first count of conducting business in Namibia without a proper work permit and the second count of furnishing false information to an immigration officer upon entering Namibia.
In his plea explanation, Joubert informed the court that he entered Namibia on 28 November and that he told the immigration officials that he came to the country on a visit. He admitted to contravening the immigration control act and that he lied to immigration officials.
Hellens, during his plea explanation, said that he wasn’t sure that it mattered enough to tell the truth and that he was not careful.
“I am ready to take responsibility for my actions,” Hellens stated.
Advocate Schimming-Chase in mitigation to sentencing argued that both men have illustrious careers and that they travelled to Namibia to represent the accused persons in the Fishrot corruption matter.
“These gentlemen have not made any attempts to disrespect the court. They are very sorry. The court should please consider a fine. These gentlemen do not want to disrespect the court, they admit their guilt,” Advocate Schimming-Chase argued.
State prosecutor, Cliff Lutibezi, in aggravation of sentencing, argued that both men are seasoned lawyers, who disrespected Namibian laws.
“They violated the law willingly and they should be punished because they are supposed to know better. These are senior counsel members and they should be sentenced accordingly,” Lutibezi said.
The prosecutor asked Magistrate Alweendo to fine the convicted persons with a fine of N$48 000 each.
While handing down sentence, Magistrate Alweendo stated that the purpose of the immigration control act is to control the movement of non-citizens into Namibia and they are thus asked the purpose of their visit to the country.
“The convicted persons did not only lie to immigration officials but risked the security of Namibia as they could have indulged in illegal activities. You are lawyers and are therefore supposed to act within the ambit of the law. You are convicted in accordance to the seriousness of the offence,” Magistrate Alweendo stated.
While taking their personal circumstances into account, the convicted persons were fined N$6 000 on Count 1 and N$4 000 on Count 2. The second count also carries a statutory sentence of six months if the convicted person is unable to pay the fine.
Hellens was supposed to represent Esau and Shanghala, while Joubert was supposed to represent the remaining four, who include James Hatuikulipi, Tamson Hatuikulipi, Ricardo Gustavo and Pius Mwatelulo.
After they were sentenced, the convicted lawyers were released on their own cognizance to pay the fines and to find their own way back to the Hosea Kutako International Airport to catch the next flight back to South Africa.