Speculation that Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) Deputy Director General, Erna van der Merwe, assisted fugitive lawyer Maren de Klerk to flee refuses to subside as the Prosecutor General’s Office eagerly awaits his extradition from South Africa.
De Klerk, who is accused of being the pay master in the Fishrot case, fled the country a few days after a meeting van der Merwe and other investigators at the ACC Head Office. As PG’s Office is working round the clock to bring de Klerk back to Namibia, prosecution officials are blaming van der Merwe for giving de Klerk preferential treatment, which enabled him to flee. The officials claim that when de Klerk visited the ACC’s office in January, 2020, there was already enough evidence to link him to the case but van der Merwe informed the investigators it was premature to arrest him then.
An official at the office of the Prosecutor General, who spoke on condition of anonymity, claimed that at that stage it was clear that de Klerk, through his company, was the Fishrot paymaster, and his involvement in the whole scandal was more prominent than that of former Fisheries and Marine Resources Minister, Bernard Esau, or Ricardo Gustavo, who were arrested a month earlier.
The officials at the PG’s office further claim that van der Merwe was informed that de Klerk was busy packing his personal belongings from his house and warned her that de Klerk might flee. The officials claim that van der Merwe once again reassured them that de Klerk had informed her that he was coming back to provide more statements to the ACC. The officials further claim that de Klerk spent more than three hours in van der Merwe’s office before he finally skipped the country.
Van der Merwe vehemently denied the allegations that she spent three hours alone with de Klerk and said other ACC investigators were present in the meeting. “In January 2020 I was informed that Mr Maren de Klerk was seeking an audience with me. I agreed to meet him at the ACC headquarters on 16 January 2020. The duration of the meeting was approximately 50 minutes.”
“It is customary for myself and the Director-General, Mr Paulus Noa, to have investigators present in meetings that might have bearing on investigating officers. Kindly note that Mr Maren de Klerk confirms the presence of investigators at the meeting in his affidavit which is now in the public domain.”
The allegations that van der Merwe treated de Klerk in a special manner also irked some ACC investigators, and last year the ACC confronted her, especially about her mingling into the Fishrot scandal. Van der Merwe allegedly got agitated and stormed out of the meeting and left Noa behind. Van der Merwe refused to confirm or deny the incident, saying it was an internal office matter.
Meanwhile South African authorities have confirmed that the extradition process for de Klerk has begun. Van der Merwe further dismissed allegations that she wants to make de Klerk a state witness saying the official position of the ACC is that de Klerk is a suspect for purposes of the Fishrot investigation.
She says in March this year, she confirmed to de Klerk that he has always been a suspect throughout the investigation. “I sanctioned the submission of an affidavit by one of our investigators to a prosecutor for purposes of applying for a warrant for the arrest of Mr Maren de Klerk.”
Officials at the PG’s office informed the Windhoek Observer that the preferential treatment de Klerk received in this case was based on race and accused van der Merwe of always making it her duty to record statements from any white person being interviewed by the ACC. They cited the Kora Music Awards case in which the Government was allegedly swindled of about N$23 million by Benin-born businessperson, Ernst Adjovi, as a classic example, adding that while all the other ministers were interviewed by the ACC investigators, Van der Merwe made sure she interviewed Calle Schlettwein on the matter. Van der Merwe once again dismissed the allegations but refused to confirm or deny whether she indeed interviewed Schlettwein.
The date for the State’s argument in its application for a joinder of the two so-called Fishrot cases, the Fishcor’s and Nengomar’s, has been set for 12 July.
The Fishrot accused, which include Esau, along with former Justice Minister, Sacky Shangala, former Fishcor Charperson, James Hatuikulipi, former Fishcor Chief Exectuive Officer (CEO), Mike Nghipunya, Tamson Hatuikulip, Pius Mwatelulo, Otneel Shuudifonya, Philipus Mwapopi, along with 17 others, including entities they are affiliated to, are alleged to have funnelled millions of State funds for personal gain.