Namibia News

Ex-AirNam staffers fined over flight-ticket scam

TWO former employees of Air Namibia were fined after they were convicted on charges under the Anti-Corruption Act in the Windhoek Regional Court on Friday.

Ellison Hijarunguru, former public relations and corporate communications manager at Air Namibia, was sentenced to a fine of N$20 000 or four years’ imprisonment after magistrate Alexis Diergaardt convicted him on three counts of corruptly using an office or position to obtain gratification.

The magistrate also sentenced a former sales representative at the national airline, Albert Rickerts, to a fine of N$10 000 or a two-year jail term. Rickerts was found guilty on one charge of corruptly using his position at the airline to obtain gratification.

Hijarunguru (61) and Rickerts (52) both denied guilt on 20 charges of corruption when their trial started in February 2018.

In February this year, they had a change of mind and their defence lawyers informed the court they were admitting that they received money from people in return for Air Namibia flight tickets.

Hijarunguru admitted he received a total amount of N$15 231 from three people for flight tickets in December 2007 and February 2008, while Rickerts admitted he received N$10 093 from one person for a ticket in December 2007.

Rickerts told the court on Friday he had a drug-abuse problem at the time he committed the crime. He also said he has not used drugs for 13 years. The state alleged that Hijarunguru and Rickerts used a barter agreement between Air Namibia and the printing company Democratic Media Holdings (DMH) to provide discounted flight tickets to people from whom they solicited payments in return. Under the barter agreement DMH provided the airline with advertising space, which in return agreed to provide DMH employees or associates with discounted flight tickets.

Hijarunguru and Rickerts were initially accused of having received a total amount of about N$206 000 from 20 people who were given discounted flight tickets under the barter agreement, although they were not DMH employees or otherwise connected to the company.

Diergaardt remarked during the sentencing that although the amounts of money involved in the charges on which they were convicted were not very high, both were in positions of trust at Air Namibia and breached that trust.

She said while they at first denied guilt, they came to their senses and admitted guilt during the trial. Diergaardt said she was giving them a second chance.

The two men were arrested in October 2011, after an investigation by the Anti-Corruption Commission. They were granted bail of N$10 000 each with their first court appearance.

Defence lawyers Wana Chinsembu and Braam Cupido represented Hijarunguru and Rickerts respectively.

Public prosecutor Filemon Nyau represented the state.

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