NGO partners with UK anti-graft agency to pursue Fishrot litigation
Namibian NGO Affirmative Repositioning (AR) has entered into a partnership with London, U.K.-based global anti-corruption fund Restitution to begin litigation targeting the tracing and recovery of more than NAD 2.5 billion (USD 156.3 million, EUR 133.1 million) suspected to have been lost through the Fishrot scandal between 2014 and 2019, the Namibian reported.
The initiative creates an avenue to initiate international civil lawsuits against Icelandic seafood company Samherji, which is accused of illegally benefitting from mackerel quotas allocated to a private company, Namgomar Pesca (Namgomar Namibia), by the Namibia government.
AR Activist-In-Chief Job Amupanda, formerly the mayor of Namibia's capital, Windhoek, said the NGO “will work with Restitution to explore various approaches to assist recovery for the people of Namibia in relation to assets that were stolen through misappropriation of fishing licenses, including in relation to the Fishrot scandal.”
“Restitution’s work will include providing support on the civil enforcement and asset recovery including capacity building support,” he said.
Amupanda said although Namibia’a government has thus far conducted an effective investigation and criminal prosecution of the suspects in the fishing scandal, “no civil action has been taken to recover money stolen through this illegality from the country.”
He said AR is willing to discuss litigation with other civil society groups and state actors in Namibia, calling lawsuits “an extremely effective tool of economic justice.”
“We have suffered from corruption and depletion of our fisheries and the people of Namibia are owed large amounts from the illegal treatment and plundering of our marine resources,” he said.
Restitution CEO Katherine Mulhern said her organization “is ready to provide whatever help is necessary to ensure that the money is returned to the victims.”
“We are delighted to join Job to support him in righting this injustice,” she said.
Samherji is alleged to have bribed Namibian government ministers and officials to gain undue access to Namibia’s marine fisheries.
Namibia’s prosecution has successfully applied to have former Namibian Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources Bernhard Esau, former Namibian Minister of Justice Sacky Shanghala, former National Fishing Corporation (Fishcor) Board Chairperson James Hatuikulipi, Esau's son-in-law Tamson Hatuikulipi, and former Fishcor CEO Mike Nghipunya held in custody awaiting hearing of their bond terms and subsequent trial on charges related to Fishrot.
Namibia’s Prosecutor-General Martha Imalwa said she was not affiliated with the AR litigation initiative.
“I have no comment. I don't predict things that I am not aware of. I can only comment when I am informed about what you are talking about,” Imalwa told The Namibian. “I am not a civil litigation office. I can only do things that are prescribed in the law.”
Former Samherji Director of Operations in Namibia Jóhannes Stefánsson, who was the whistleblower on the company’s alleged wrongdoings in Namibia, commended the AR initiative, saying it is “a very big and important step.”
Photo courtesy of Affirmative Repositioning