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Bail for couple charged over N$163m crypto scheme

Written by on April 19, 2024

The prosecution has not been able to disclose crucial details on the charges faced by a couple arrested last month in connection with an alleged illegal cryptocurrency investment scheme, a magistrate remarked before granting bail to the couple in the Windhoek Magistrate’s Court yesterday.

During the hearing of a bail application by Coenraad (‘Coenie’) Botha (69) and his wife Charlotte Murove (32), it became clear that the police officer in charge of the investigation of their case “did not have a clear understanding of the charges he was meant to investigate since June 2022”, magistrate Jozanne Klazen said in the ruling in which she granted bail to Botha and Murove.

“It is a dire state of affairs when an investigating officer who has been instructed to investigate a matter in 2022 in 2024 still does not know the details of the allegations levelled against the suspects,” Klazen said.

She continued: “He knows the labels of the charges, but admitted that he does not know the allegations that support the labels. It surely begs the question on which charges [Botha and Murove] were arrested, or leads to the inevitable conclusion that [Botha and Murove] were arrested on general labels of charges without specific allegations.”

Noting that the state informed the court it needs assistance from the South African authorities for the investigation of the charges against the couple, Klazen remarked that there “can be no basis to detain accused in custody pending investigations that have no end in sight”.

Klazen granted bail in an amount of N$50 000 to Botha, while Murove’s bail was set at N$30 000.

The magistrate ordered that they should report themselves at the Windhoek Central Police Station daily, may not leave the municipal area of Windhoek without the written authority of the investigating officer of their case, may not interfere with state witnesses or tamper with state evidence, should surrender all travel documents to the police, and should reside at a verified fixed address in Windhoek.

Botha ran an investment scheme which he described as a cryptocurrency exchange through the company CBI Exchange Namibia, of which he is a director.

He ran a similar scheme in South Africa, where that country’s Financial Sector Conduct Authority imposed an administrative penalty of N$216 million on Botha and barred him from working in the financial sector for 10 years three weeks ago.

Klazen said in her ruling that from the charges against Botha and Murove, it appears they are not accused of illegal conduct after 2022, and therefore there are no indications that they pose a continued threat to the public.

Without clear charges disclosed to the court and the two accused, the state could not show it has evidence on which they could be convicted and that would justify their further detention, Klazen also said.

Botha and Murove were first arrested at the Buitepos border post east of Gobabis on 11 March.

According to the couple, they were on their way to South Africa, where they planned to visit friends and Botha wanted to have a meeting with his lawyers, when they were arrested.

The court was also informed that the police received a tip-off that they were planning to flee to South Africa before it was decided to arrest them.

Four days after their arrest, a Windhoek magistrate ordered that they should be released, as they had been arrested on charges for which the police needed an arrest warrant, which they did not have at that stage.

Following that order, Botha and Murove were released and again arrested on a charge of fraud, for which an arrest warrant was not needed.

They are facing 64 charges, consisting of one count of fraud, 31 charges of conducting a banking business while not authorised to do so, which is a contravention of the Banking Institutions Act of 1998, 31 counts of money laundering, which is a contravention of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act, and one charge of conducting a Ponzi scheme, in which money is solicited from investors and earlier investors are repaid with money received from later investors.

It is alleged in the fraud charge that investors paid a total amount of N$163 million to them from 2018 to 2022, while they were not authorised to receive any deposits or investments from members of the public.

Botha and Murove have to appear in court again on 31 July.

The post Bail for couple charged over N$163m crypto scheme appeared first on The Namibian.

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