The bail appeal of a former police reservist accused of trying to interfere with evidence collected during the investigation of the Fishrot fishing quotas fraud and corruption case was dismissed in the Windhoek High Court yesterday.
Sakaria Kokule’s appeal against a magistrate’s decision not to grant him bail was dismissed by judges Dinnah Usiku and Herman January, who heard oral arguments on the appeal on 28 July.
Usiku, who wrote the court’s judgement, concluded that there was no misdirection by the magistrate when he found that Kokule should be refused bail.
“The magistrate did not exercise his discretion wrongly,” she stated.
“I am of the view that it is not in the public interest and the interest of justice for [Kokule] to be released on bail,” Usiku added.
Kokule (50) and a former co-accused, Jason Iyambo, were arrested and charged in January 2020 in connection with allegations that they attempted to bribe an Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) official involved in the investigation of the Fishrot case.
Hatuikulipi was arrested on the same charges in February 2020.
The three men were charged with counts of corruptly offering gratification to an officer of the ACC, alternatively improperly influencing an ACC officer or bribery, and defeating or obstructing the course of justice.
The charges are based on allegations that they tried to bribe an ACC officer in January 2020 by offering him N$250 000 in an attempt to get him to hand them evidence seized by the ACC.
The evidence consisted of bank cards issued to Hatuikulipi and a co-accused in the Fishrot case, Pius Mwatelulo, and also a handwritten document.
Iyambo admitted guilt in the Windhoek Magistrate’s Court on a charge of attempting to obstruct the course of justice in November 2020. He was sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment, of which nine months were suspended for a period of five years.
Hatuikulipi denied guilt on the charges he is facing when his and Kokule’s trial started in the Windhoek Magistrate’s Court in February this year.
Kokule pleaded that the court does not have the jurisdiction to subject him to a trial. He based this plea on a claim that he assisted the ACC in its investigation of charges against Iyambo, and that in terms of the Anti-Corruption Act he may not be prosecuted, as he was an informer for the ACC or assisted it in an investigation.
During his bail hearing before magistrate Linus Samunzala, Kokule testified that Iyambo contacted him in December 2019 and January 2020 and asked him to relay a message to an ACC officer that Iyambo needed a bank card of Hatuikulipi that had been seized by the ACC.
Kokule said he passed the message on to an ACC officer and also took Iyambo to have a meeting with the officer. He denied that he offered the ACC officer a bribe.
Usiku noted in her judgement yesterday that Samunzala concluded there was a real risk that Kokule could interfere with state witnesses if released from custody, and that it was not in the interest of the administration of justice to grant him bail.
She said the public has a significant interest in persons accused of committing crimes of a serious nature standing their trial.
The public interest is a weighty consideration, Usiku added.
She also noted that the bribery Kokule is accused of could hinder the administration of justice.
When considering bail applications, courts have to carry out a balancing exercise between the need to preserve the liberty of individuals presumed to be innocent until proven guilty and the interests of the administration of justice, Usiku stated, before concluding that there was no misdirection by Samunzala when he turned down Kokule’s application to be granted bail in October last year.
Kokule and Hatuikulipi are scheduled to return to the Windhoek Magistrate’s Court on 29 August for a ruling in their trial.