Mines minister Tom Alweendo has said that he has opened a criminal case with the police in connection with a report that a billion-dollar worth of Namibian diamonds were stolen on a Debmarine vessel.
The diamond theft saga came to light after an ex-employee blew the whistle and brought the matter to the attention of the mines minister. The whistle-blower was subsequently on allegations of “bringing the name of the company into disrepute”.
But Alweendo on Thursday afternoon this week said that there was nothing more he could do now as the matter is in the hands of the office of prosecutor general (PG), Martha Imalwa who decides on legal actions to be taken.
He said his ministry does not investigate criminal matters.
“What I can say is that, when the employees reported the diamond theft case to the ministry, we lodged a case with the police like we should do. There is a police case to investigate. We know that the police have referred the issue to the PG’s office to see whether they are going to prosecute,” explained the minister.
“I am not sure what else the ministry should do because if we have a theft case, we do not investigate criminal cases. We simply reported the case. There is a docket. As I was saying in my letter to the employees, we cannot resolve it. Let us just wait and see what the PG is going to say,” he added.
In the meantime, the whistleblower, who has been identified as Laurentius Amakali is the one who penned the letter to Alweendo in 2018, in which he reported that diamonds with an estimated value of N$1 billion went missing from Debmarine’s MV Grand Banks vessel.
However, before a full investigation could be undertaken to determine the veracity of these claims, Amakali was given his marching orders by the company in 2020.
In his detailed report, he alleged that thousands of gem-quality precious stones went missing after they got trapped on board the ship in a fishy manner.
A local weekly reported how the diamonds were trapped in one of the canning pipes where “a rubber sock was inserted in the cone to divert some diamonds” and which held them up in the pipe preventing them from being discovered and canned for transportation.
Amakali is on record saying, “They can tell you all they want but now I was fired because I brought this matter out. The country failed to protect me even though we have a Whistleblower Protection Act. The alleged suspects have neither appeared in court for prosecution, nor have they been charged or discharged for this case even though they are well known by the company.”
Debmarine’s communications officer, Stella Ipinge is on record stating that Amakali was dismissed from the employment of Debmarine Namibia in October 2020 due to gross violation of company procedures, which is completely unrelated to the incident he referred to.
She also said that his dismissal remains the subject of arbitration by the Labour Commissioner.
“Amakali is thus a disgruntled former employee, who clearly seeks to bring the name of Debmarine Namibia into disrepute. We regard this disgruntled employee’s insinuation as highly defamatory. We reserve all our rights in this regard,” Ipinge threatened.
“In relation to the incident, he refers to February 2018. Indeed, a blockage occurred on the M-V Grand Banks vessel inside a highly secured area. Keeping in mind that this area, termed the diamond recovery process, is located in a highly secured and monitored environment,” she explained.
“The diamond recovery process is an automated process, hands- free and with no direct employee contact. The circumstances of the blockage therefore raised suspicions, regarding possible deliberate attempts to cause the blockage, thereby exposing diamond concentrate,” she said.
Debmarine Namibia is the country’s leading marine diamond mining company and is a recognised world leader in marine diamond exploration and mining technology.
In 2021, Debmarine Namibia contributed N$1.6billion to the Namibian fiscus in royalties, income tax and dividends. This contribution is estimated to increase to around N$4.7billion in 2022.The increase is mainly due to the introduction of our new state of the art diamond recovery vessel, MV Benguela Gem, according to the company’s Chief Executive Officer, Otto Shikongo.