Plot thickens in Malaysian EPL saga
The unclear granting of five Exploration Prospecting Licences to a Malaysian Investor, Sabmarian Ragubathi, has raised a stink at the Ministry of Mines and Energy with revelations that senior officials at the Ministry have tampered with the Government database to approve the awarding of the EPLs – against a directive by the Minister to revoke them.
As a result the Ministry of Mines and Energy has launched an internal investigation in which a senior official (name withheld) at the Ministry is being fingered for fraudulently awarding the EPLs to the Malaysian national despite the Minister’s decision not to grant them, The Villager can a reveal.
The revelations come at a time when the Anti-Corruption Commission is also investigating a case of a mine owner in Walvis Bay who attempted to extent the zone of his EPL.
Indications exits that the official in question tampered with the government’s information database and changed the status of the said EPLs from ‘cancelled’ to ‘approved’ after allegedly receiving kickbacks.
There is also growing suspicion that the Ministry official might have received a hefty kick back to change the status of the EPLs which were once in court in 2009. The Villager understands that after the court judgement was made in fifth court to have the status of the EPLs be revisited because the Government had not notified the Malaysian in time about the cancellation, Government then decided to write to him notifying him of the disengagement.
Dr Ragubathi is in possession of a letter dated April 18, 2013, which suggests that the Ministry has awarded him the EPLs numbered; 2584, 2565, 2566 and 2696 along the Skeleton Coast in the Kunene Region. The letter was ostensibly written and signed by Commissioner of Mines, Erasmus Shivolo. On his part Shivolo vehemently denied having authored that letter, maintaining that his signature was forged.
Said Shivolo; “I can confirm to you that the letters that were circulated to Dr Ragubathi are forged documents and do not capture the correct way that the Ministry communicates to EPL holders. The Ministry will never write an EPL confirmation letter of five EPLs on one page. Every time that an EPL is confirmed a specific letter is written in reference to that particular EPL.”
He further said; “I have never in my life seen that letter and we have also noted on our part that our system has been tampered with. I have also approached the suspect in question for investigations and he denied but as a ministry we are currently investigating but I can tell you the EPL status has been changed to active.”
He revealed that the ministry has established that the individual in question has also accessed the database of the ministry of mines on several occasions and affirmed that the ministry is working flat out to get the issue resolved.
It has also emerged that this is not the first time the EPL files at the ministry has been tampered with.
“There was a time when we realised that there were irregularities in the way the EPLs were being handled. On the part of the Government we realised that at some point we had an oversight so we rectified it but we have never at one point renewed the EPLs nor did we write such letters,” Shivolo said.
Be that as it may, Malaysian Dr. Ragubathi insisted to The Villager that he has been working with a senior official within the Ministry of Mines and Energy to have the EPLs reactivated.
“I have a name of the person that I have been dealing with from the ministry and I do not want to reveal the name for the time being because I am coming to Namibia in the next few weeks and I do not want to jeopardise my relations. I just want Namibia to be the better place for anyone in the future. I am also not at liberty to disclose the name of my correspondent at the ministry because it is a high security issue,” he said.
Dr Ragubathi also insist that all his correspondence including the questionable letter that saw his EPLs being reactivated were approved by Shivolo despite the mines commissioner refuting any link with it.
“I have talked to Shivolo and I am certain that he is the one who wrote the letters that I have. I am also at liberty to sit down with you and show you all the letters that Shivolo has signed for. The challenge is that if it is true that the EPLs are fake it also puts my credibility as the Managing Director into disrepute,” he said.
He later wrote an email saying, “…I believe you have raised some questions in regards to Mr Shivolo, the mining commissioner of MME. I would be more than happy to share the evidence that I have in my possession in regards to Mr Shivolo and the rest of them. “It is impossible for me to make references over the phone because the evidence that I have is not only matters that pertain or question the actions of the Ministry of Mines & Energy but it is something that was collected from 18 years of work in Namibia. Some of the evidence are very confidential and I will only be able to discuss that with you after I share it with the Highest Office. It is not my intention to bring shame to anyone,” he said.
He added that, “I am just trying to protect the investment of my partners and me. I carry good memories of Namibia and the warm greetings of the Head of State whom I had the opportunity to meet, namingly the Former President and Founding Father, His Excellency Dr. Sam Nujoma, the President of Namibia, His Excellency Hifikepunye Pohamba and the Prime Minister of Namibia, His Excellency Dr. Hage Geingob. “…I would have been in the position to not only contribute towards the mining sector but also to the development of various other sectors, such as education, health & infrastructure because of my wide network of friends globally, if the attempts to hijack my company had not wasted my 18 years of life just seeking justice in Namibia. Furthermore, my name as an individual was tarnished by unscrupulous people without any basis. I speak very openly that if there should be any legitimate claims to what they have said about me, I beg them to come forward and face me like a man than to be just talking behind my back with an agenda,” he said. He added that, “I would be able to produce evidence to all that I have made mention of but I would do it in the platform that is recommended by law if and when it needs be. It would be inappropriate for me to reveal certain evidence before I reveal them to the Head of State or a Court of Law. I thank you for taking the interest and for the attempt to bring the matters to the public. I seek the support of the Government of Namibia to give me justice. God Bless.”
Meanwhile the Director of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) Paulus Noah has expressed a keen interest in investigating how the Malaysian had his EPLs renewed fraudulently. “We are eager to investigate the issue if there are sufficient evidence but it is not a case that we can just pick on allegations. We have in the past dealt with cases of that magnitude and it will be interesting to get an explanation on what exactly happened in this matter. We will also need to find out the authenticity of the letter in question,” Noah said.