Samherji refutes claims of ownership, control of Cape Cod FS amid investigations
Icelandic fisheries company Samherji has dismissed claims made in the media that it owned the company Cape Cod FS or that JPC Shipmanagement, which provided services to Samherji’s companies, held ownership of Cape Cod FS on Samherji’s behalf.
In a new statement, Samherji said these accounts are wrong, and that there is nothing in ongoing legal investigations that indicate otherwise.
“Samherji does not own and has never owned Cape Cod FS and has never assigned others to hold the ownership of the company,” the company stated.
Earlier this month, Samherji hired the Norwegian law firm Wikborg Rein to assist investigations into allegations made against the company because of its operations in Namibia. Priority was given to reviewing payments to Cape Cod, registered in the Marshall Islands.
According to Samherji’s statement, Cape Cod FS was owned by JPC Shipmanagement, which provided companies affiliated with Samherji with vessel crews. It said that purchasing the services of such companies is well known in international shipping operations.
Furthermore, it claimed that Icelandic newspaper Stundin and national broadcasting service RÚV had “incorrectly stated” that about USD 70 million (EUR 63.6 million) was paid to Cape Cod because of operations in Namibia, whereas the actual sum paid to the company was USD 28.9 million (EUR 26.3 million).
“It has been stated in the Icelandic media that the payments to Cape Cod FS are unexplained and abnormal. This is wrong. Namibia has capital controls. In order to make payments out of the Namibian economy various documents are required to verify the payment due to the controls,” the company wrote. “For this reason, information on payments to each crew member along with a copy of his passport has to be sent to the bank that handles the transactions, which forwards the information to The Bank of Namibia. In order to ensure that all crew members were paid in accordance with their contract, the payments were reviewed by both Cape Cod FS and an employee of a company affiliated with Samherji before the transactions were made.”
Samherji said the amounts paid to Cape Cod had been reviewed and the investigation suggests that these were in line with market fees at the time, and factored in the extent of the operation.
"The allegations made about the ownership of Cape Cod and the payments made to the company are wrong. The investigation will continue and the relevant authorities will be provided with all findings,” Samherji interim CEO Björgólfur Jóhannsson said in the statement.
Last month, Samherji announced that CEO Thorsteinn Már Baldvinsson had stepped aside while the internal investigation into alleged wrongdoings at its Namibia subsidiaries is conducted. This move followed bribery allegations made by Jóhannes Stefánsson, a former managing director of Samherji's operations in Namibia, along with WikiLeaks publishing 30,000 documents obtained from Stefánsson that claim to expose corrupt schemes by the company to gain access to rich fishing grounds.
This first batch of documents, called “Fishrot Files – Part 1,” was published on 12 November. “Fishrot Files – Part 2” was published on 26 November with documents pertaining to the investigation into bribes, money laundering and tax evasion.
WikiLeaks said a third installment will be released soon.