Ex-Fishcor CEO blames illegal quota sales on government “misunderstanding”
The former CEO of the state-owned National Fishing Corporation of Namibia (Fishcor) has told a High Court in Namibia he never received direct instructions on how funds earned from sale of the company’s fishing quotas were to be disbursed.
Mike Nghipunya has been charged with 30 counts including racketeering, contravening Namibia’s Anti-Corruption Act, conspiracy, fraud, theft, money laundering, and obstruction of justice, as part of the Fishrot scandal, which centers around allegedly corrupt quota sales from Fishcor to Icelandic seafood company Samherji involving more than USD 650 million (EUR 536 million).
Fishcor’s horse mackerel quotas were allocated by the company under the "governmental objectives" as provided for under the Marine Resources Act, meaning only Namibia’s fisheries minister could approve their sale. According to AllAfrica.com, Nghipunya told the Namibian High Court during an ongoing bail hearing that although he could not confirm who specifically gave the instructions, the orders came from a director in the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources.
The prosecution has told the court an estimated NAD 167 million (USD 11.1 million, EUR 9.6 million) was generated by the sale, which was then illegally disbursed to a number of recipients, including former fisheries minister Bernhardt, who is accused of approving the sale.
Apart from Nghipunya and Esau, others charged in the Fishrot scandal include Sacky Shanghala, Tamson and James Hatuikulipi, Pius Mwatelulo, Ricardo Gustavo, Shuudifonya, Mwapopi and Nigel van Wyk, and Maren de Klerk.
Nghipunya told the court Namibia’s ruling party Swapo also received a horse mackerel quota of 18,800 metric tons, allegedly in support of the party’s 2017 election campaign. Subsequently, Fishcor acted as an intermediary in the sale of the quotas to Karee Investments 180 for at least NAD 44 million (EUR 2.5 million, USD 2.9 million).
As Fischor CEO Nghipunya oversaw the company’s books, but at his hearing, he insisted he had no voice in who received the profits from the sale of the quotas or how much money was transferred from the company. Nghipunya blamed a misunderstanding within Namibia’s government on how Fishcor was allowed to handle its fishing quotas for the problems the company found itself in.
Among other charges, Nghipunya and his co-accused face one count of fraud alleging they personally benefitted to the tune of NAD 81.8 million (EUR 4.7 million, USD 5.4 million) from the sale, which prosecutors claim was carried out through the assistance of fugitive lawyer Marèn de Klerk.
At his hearing, Nghipunya urged Windhoek High Court Judge Shafimana Ueitele to release him on bail in order to prepare an adequate defense against the charges he faces.
Photo courtesy of Namibia Judiciary