New evidence has surfaced showing that President Hage Geingob ordered payment of N$47 million to UK based lawyers for “legal” work done to supposedly prepare Namibia for a court battle with Germany over genocide reparations.
This evidence is contained in a letter written by attorneys of the UK based lawyers to the Minister of Justice, Albert Kawana, on 12 September, 2017.
When the Windhoek Observer first broke the story about the N$47 million charged by the UK based lawyers, it was widely thought that Attorney General, Sackeus Shanghala, was the one who had ordered Treasury to pay the lawyers despite the questionable work done by them.
However, the letter by Thrings Solicitors to Kawana, in which Shanghala is copied in, explicitly states that it was only after Geingob’s intervention that they were paid.
“Counsel took this course on the understanding and guarantee by GRN that legal fees would be paid promptly and in accordance with the explicit terms of the contract. Counsel then provided the attorney general, president, his special envoy, the Genocide Technical Committee and MIRCO (Ministry of International Relations and Cooperation) with detailed and invaluable legal advice and documentation to vindicate the right of the victims of Germany’s actions,” the letter from the attorneys representing the UK Based lawyers said.
The attorneys said that instead of honouring the agreement notarised by the office of the attorney general, Government refused to pay the “legal” fees until Geingob’s intervention.
“This, in our clients’ view was a deliberate act. In addition, our client also would remind you that there was in public unwarranted and unacceptable questioning of the vital legal work performed by the European team on behalf of Namibia.
“The refusal to satisfy the debt went on for many months, in the case of the earliest invoices for almost a year. In that period, excuse after excuse was advanced. Counsels were compelled to take the exceptional course of instructing lawyers of their own to recoup the monies legitimately owed.
“Even then, all correspondence was ignored by GRN. It was only when it came to the attention of the president that proceedings were being taken in London, was the order given to pay the monies,” Thrings Solicitors claim.
Geingob has been mum on the N$47 million paid for “legal” advice for the past four months, leaving Shanghala and Finance Minister, Calle Schlettwein, to fight each other in public over the exorbitant fees and the process by which the invoice was initiated, approved and paid.
In another development that will likely shock the public, the UK based lawyers are now demanding more money to be paid.
They argue that Government should pay interest after delaying payments as well as cover the legal fees connected to the preparation of their lawsuit against the Namibian Government.
“All counsel had incurred very considerable expenses financing the debt. This included both interest fees as well as the legal costs. The interest now claimed is the precise sum payable under the high court protocol for late payment of debts for commercial contracts. It is a figure stipulated by statute and failing due where, as here, there is a recalcitrant debtor,” the demand letter further reads.
Legal sources told the Windhoek Observer that British lawyers can claim eight percent of the N$47 million legal costs as interest, which is at least N$3.7 million plus the legal fees, which are not known at this stage.
This means that the genocide legal fees will escalate to over N$50 million.
Documents in possession of the Windhoek Observer reveal that the “legal fees” that the foreign-based lawyers were paid for were based mostly on administration work such as reading and studying documents, clerical preparations of the arrival of Shanghala, receiving telephone calls, messaging Shanghala, removing a USB from the computer, receiving flight tickets from Shanghala and confirmation of dates.
Investigations by the Windhoek Observer has also established that two complaints have been launched at the Law Society of England and Wales for the exorbitant fees paid and another for tax evasion to determine whether the UK based lawyers have paid tax on the N$47 million already paid.
Speaking to the Windhoek Observer this week, Schlettwein said he will not reveal details of how much Government still has to pay from its coffers to the British lawyers.
“There has been a discussion with the Government attorney on the interest payments that still need to be paid. But you have to go through him for such details,”Schlettwein said.
Government Attorney, Matti Asino, however refused to comment.
“I am an attorney and cannot disclose client’s information, I must respect the law,”Asino told the Windhoek Observer.
Questions sent to Geingob through his press secretary, Albertus Aochamub, remain unanswered.
Where it all started
Schlettwein wrote a letter to International Relations and Cooperation Minister, Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah on 10 April 2017, seeking clarification on the legal fees to be paid to the foreign lawyers, including Namibian-born lawyer, Anna Uukelo.
In her response, dated 5 June, Nandi-Ndaitwah told Schlettwein that her office could not confirm or validate the work performed, but she, however, advised the finance minister to pay the lawyers to avoid the accumulation of interest.
“Comrade minister, my office cannot confirm or validate the invoices against the work performed, as the lawyers were working under the supervision of the Attorney General’s Office.
“However, as work is done and the Government has paid part of the sum £208 776,23 (N$3,518,079,64) out of a total £629 948,45 (N$10,614,826,31) leaving a balance of £419 172,2 (N$7,061,821) it is advisable that the balance be paid off to avoid accumulation of interest,” Nandi-Ndaitwah wrote back to Schlettwein.