Defence Minister resigns . . . as ACC maintains it won’t investigate

Andrew Kathindi and Rose-Mary Haufiku

Minister of Defence and Veterans Affairs, Peter Vilho, has resigned, following his afternoon-long meeting with President Hage Geingob on Tuesday, the Presidency has announced.

Geingob summoned Vilho to State House to explain himself following allegations of illicit proceeds in an undeclared Hong Kong bank account. Vilho served as minister for a year and a month, after he was appointed by Geingob in March 2020.

His tenure at the ministry was, however, riddled with corruption allegations. According to the Presidency, Vilho informed the President that his continued membership of the Executive was “untenable” and the “ongoing media blitz” focused on him detracted from the “very important work of Government, especially in the area of defence and security”.

“President Geingob thanked him for his services as Minister of Defence and Veterans Affairs.”

This comes as Windhoek Mayor, Job Amupanda, accused Vilho of using his position at the Defense Ministry to allegedly steal money from the Ministry’s commercial entity, August 26. Amupanda also filed a complaint with the Public Accounts and Auditor’s Board (PAAB), and alleged that August 26, on Vilho’s instructions, transferred N$200 million from the Defence Ministry account without approval from Treasury, but was not flagged by the company’s former auditors, PwC. PAAB confirmed to Windhoek Observer that it was investigating the matter.

Despite, Director General of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), Paulus Noa, says there is no corruption in the case of Hong Kong bank account involving the former Defence Minister and thus his office is not investigating the case. “There is nothing about this account, reported to ACC that has to do with corruption,” he told Windhoek Observer.

“The account has only not been declared and that is not enough for ACC to jump into someone’s matter and start investigating.”

Noa said in order for the ACC to get involved, “they need to have information that establishes a ground for corruption and we haven’t received such information at the moment.”

On why the ACC is not investigating the issue of Vilho’s undeclared bank account in Hong Kong, Noa referred Windhoek Observer to the Police, stating that it is the only authority at the moment that could be interested since it deals with money laundering.

According to media reports, Prosecutor General Martha Imalwa confirmed that there has been a criminal investigation into Vilho but the case had been stalled because of lack of cooperation from China and Hong Kong.

According to reports, Imalwa had stated that the evidence she had was not conclusive in a criminal case and would not have proven guilt beyond reasonable doubt. The PG’s office, according to media reports, had concluded that money laundering and fraud had taken place, no criminal charges ever emerged from the investigations.

Vilho has now become the fourth minister under President Geingob’s presidency to resign from his post after becoming embroiled in corruption scandals. Former Minister of Education, Arts and Culture, Katrina Hanse-Himarwa, in 2019 resigned from her position as minister after she was found by the High Court to be guilty of corruptly using her position as Governor of Hardap to change a list of housing beneficiaries in Mariental.

Former ministers of Justice, and Fisheries and Marine Resources, Sacky Shangala and Bernard Esau respectively, also resigned after their alleged involvement in the fishrot scandal was brought to light.

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