Finance employees in court again

Two finance employees nabbed for bribery have applied for bail.

01 March 2020 | Crime

Melanie Classen; Accused; “I did not know what the money was for.”

Walvis Bay • [email protected]

The two employees of the ministry of finance’s Inland Revenue department made another appearance in court on Thursday to apply for bail.

Melanie Claasen (43) and Daleen Damens (35) stand accused of corruptly using their office for personal gratification and taking a bribe. This follows after the two ladies apparently solicited a N$20 000 bribe from a taxpayer.

The money was recovered and the duo were arrested through a sting operation by the Anti-Corruption Commission.
Claasen is a senior taxation officer and Damens is a taxation officer at the Inland Revenue department.

Claasen said that her job as a taxation officer involves recovering state owned money.

“To provide a good standing certificate for a business, everything must be paid up to date but the director can override this on the grounds that the taxpayer makes a payment arrangement with us. A company must then pay 50% of everything owed to revenue and only then a certificate of good standing can be issued.”

She said that she had not requested N$10 000 from the taxpayer in question.

“The only conversation I had with the witness was that she sent me a text containing crying faces and my name. At the time she was in South Africa. My co-accused then forwarded me a message from the witness to ask me if the account was frozen, upon which I replied yes.”

According to Claasen, the witness asked her what the next step is with regards to her company when she arrives back from South Africa.

“Her problem was that they had no money for fuel, since our office took the whole amount in their account. She asked us to reverse it, which we are allowed to do. The next day I wrote a letter to the bank to request them to reverse the transaction. N$86 000 remained and the rest was reversed. That was the last time I had a conversation with the witness. I never asked the witness for N$100 000 for the reversal of funds I carried out.”

Classen said that communication between her and the witness was done on the phone of her co-accused.

“After the conversation I had with the witness, Daleen read out the messages. I was not aware of a request for N$100 000 to be paid to uplift the account. I cannot recall the entire message, but I do remember a N$10 000, which I do not know what it was for.”

She added that on the day of her arrest, the witness told her that she will be coming to the offices with N$20 000. “I did not know what the money was for.”

On the issue of the two accused destroying evidence related to the case, Claasen said she drafted two letters with different dates, of which she threw one away.

“The letter was a notice to an agent for the money to be deducted from the account. I asked the taxpayer if I must make the payment on the first or last day of March. The letter with the wrong date I just scrunched up and threw into a bin.”

She explained that the witness dropped an envelope into her desk drawer.

“When the taxpayer came to my office on the day in question, my drawer was open because I was eating sweets. She had a sling bag, took money which was in an envelope and dropped it into my drawer. She turned to the desk of my co accused and also dropped an envelope on her desk. I did not even touch the envelope when she dropped it on my desk.”

During the bail application proceedings, Claasen pleaded with the court to grant her bail as she has three children who are financially dependent on her.

“I deem the criminal matter against me very seriously. Two of the children are currently living with their father, but he has been transferred to the North and has to start working there on 2 March. I have no family who can look after my children.”

She indicated that she can pay N$5 000 bail.

Damens on the other hand, said that the taxpayer only told her that she will bring something for them. “The N$10 000 came from her, via a WhatsApp message she sent us. She said that we must please activate the frozen bank account. First she called me on WhatsApp since she was in South Africa at the time, but I could not answer. Thereafter she called my co-accused asking if the account was frozen. She said she had no money to travel back to South Africa and we asked her to come to the office for her to make arrangements.”

Damens explained that the account was opened the next day and N$89 000 was used to be paid the receiver.

“After her arrival back in the country, she took her time to come to our offices and only arrived on the day we were arrested. In one of the text messages, she told us she would give us something but we did not know what. I thought it was a wedding invitation since she is engaged to be married.”

According to Damens her co-accused asked when the down payment will be made, which she replied was at the end of March.

“At no stage did I solicit something from the witness to unfreeze her accounts. When she dropped the envelope, we did not even touch it. When she left, the ACC arrived and started a recording, saying that we had just received a bribe.”

In addition, Damens said that they have received N$6000 from this specific witness some time ago.

“The money was not for anything, she simply just said she’ll give us something. She was the one who first spoke about the N$100 000, and I did not agree to anything. I told her to come in to make arrangements. That is why we wrote a letter to the bank for the deduction of N$50 000 per month and she asked for it to be deducted at the end of the month.”

Damens is the mother of three children, with her youngest being 2-years old. She indicated that she will be able to pay N$3 000 for bail.

Their case was postponed to Friday (28 February) for the ACC chief investigator in Erongo, Walter Kurz, to present evidence.
Magistrate Nicholaidis will pronounce if bail will be granted on Tuesday or Wednesday.