Key Witness in Corruption Case Spills the Beans in Namibia

Telecoms

A key figure in the Telecom Namibia copper corruption trial now under way in the High Court in Windhoek yesterday started spilling the beans on his own and three suspected accomplices' claimed involvement in an alleged scheme to manipulate the sale of scrap copper by Telecom Namibia for their own gain.

The alleged corrupt scrap copper sales scheme that has led to the prosecution of former Telecom Namibia General Manager James Camm and businessmen Ettienne Weakley and Heinz Dresselhaus on 30 charges of corruption, fraud and theft, was hatched one evening in 1997 by the side of the swimming pool of Dresselhaus's Heja Game Lodge outside Windhoek, former Telecom Namibia Procurement Manager Ivan Ganes told Judge Collins Parker yesterday.

Ganes gave his testimony in the same courtroom where he was sentenced to an effective two-year jail term. Ganes was also sentenced to a fine of N$100 000 on June 15 2005, after he had pleaded guilty to 13 counts of fraud in connection with his role in the alleged scrap copper sales scam over which Dresselhaus, Weakley and Camm are now on trial. The latter three have all pleaded not guilty to the 30 charges that they are facing. The charges all date from the period between October 1998 and February 2001.

Ganes was still Telecom Namibia's Manager: Procurement in that period, while Camm was a General Manager at the telecommunications parastatal and Dresselhaus Scrap CC, a scrap dealership owned by Dresselhaus and Weakley, was doing business with Telecom after it had clinched a contract with Telecom for the sale of scrap copper.

That contract was signed on October 8 and 9 1997. At some stage during 1997, after the contract had been concluded, he was approached by Camm to discuss how they could themselves also benefit by manipulating the sale of scrap copper to Dresselhaus Scrap, Ganes told the Judge.

He said Camm first called him and asked if they could have a talk in connection with the copper sales, and Camm then came to his office to discuss the matter. Camm told him there were huge quantities of copper wire that had to be removed from old Telecom Namibia phone lines across the country as a result of the introduction of new phone systems, Ganes said.

Camm also said some of these lines were very old - dating back more than 30 years - and no-one would really be missing them if they disappeared, Ganes testified. He said Camm asked him if he wanted to buy into such a scheme, and he answered that he was interested. Camm then told him that he would arrange a meeting with Dresselhaus and Weakley, Ganes added.

He said a meeting was arranged one evening at Heja Game Lodge outside Windhoek.

There he met Dresselhaus, who owns the lodge, and Weakley, and they first had a few drinks at the lodge's bar before they were joined by Camm.

He said the first part of it related to the manipulation of labour costs connected to the dismantling and removal of old phone lines from where copper had to be collected. The plan was that they would find a way in which the job of removing this copper wire would be given to Dresselhaus Scrap.

They also talked about getting copper to just 'disappear' on some routes where old phone lines had to be dismantled, and about manipulating the price that Dresselhaus Scrap would be required to pay Telecom Namibia for the copper it bought from the company, Ganes said.

He said it was agreed that Dresselhaus Scrap would be allowed to charge Telecom at a rate of N$2,200 per ton of copper for its labour and removal costs where the scrap dealer dismantled old phone lines itself.

This job however was expected to cost Dresselhaus only around N$1,500 per ton of copper collected, and the result was that the difference of N$700 a ton of copper was to be shared equally between himself, Camm, Weakley and Dresselhaus, Ganes said.

The real benefits that the four expected to be reaping from their scheme was with some routes where old phone lines were to be removed and Dresselhaus Scrap would simply not be asked to pay for any of the copper collected on these routes, Ganes indicated.

The Namibian