Namibia wants three “fishrot” suspects extradited

Published on
April 28, 2021

Namibia has started extradition proceedings for three Icelandic nationals suspected of involvement in the multimillion-dollar “fishrot” scandal that has shaken the country’s fishing industry.

Namibia Deputy Prosecutor General Ed Marondedze asked judge Christie Liebenberg to adjourn the fishrot case until the three Icelanders – Adalsteinn Helgason, Egill Helgi Árnason, and Ingvar Júlíusson – are extradited to Namibia.

The so-called "Fishrot" scandal, in which more than USD 650 million (EUR 536 million) was flagged as suspicious proceeds, involved Namibia’s state-owned National Fishing Corporation of Namibia (Fishcor) and Icelandic fish processing firm Samherji. Samherji was alleged to have paid bribes to Namibian politicians and businessmen to gain unfair advantage and access to Namibian horse mackerel quotas.

Former Samherji Director of Namibian Operations Johannes Stefansson – the whistleblower in the case – previously indicated there could be as many as six current and former employees of the fishing company involved in the scandal, who collectively oversaw the payment of at least NAD 120 million (USD 8.4 million EUR 6.9 million) to Fishcor, which was then diverted to individuals.

Other suspects in the scandal include former Namibian Fisheries Minister Bernhardt Martin Esau’s son in-law, Tamson Hatuikulipi, his cousin James Hatuikulipi, businessman Ricardo Gustavo, suspended head of Fishcor Mike Nghipunya, and 11 corporate entities and trusts linked to them.

In January 2021, a leaked legal document linked Namibian President Hage Geingob to the fishrot bribery scandal. The president’s name appeared in an affidavit provided in April 2020 to the Namibian Anti-Corruption Commission by lawyer Marén de Klerk, in which he claims to have been approached by Shangala and Hatuikulipi for assistance in setting up “corporate structures to process donations from supporters of the ruling Swapo party, and that they told him the president had mandated the project.”

Some of the firms De Klerk helped in setting up were allegedly used as conduits for illicit payments by Samherji to Namibian government officials before the funds were reportedly channeled to fund Geingob’s 2019 presidential campaign that saw him reelected for a second term.  

Geingob appointed Derek Klazen as the country's new fisheries and marine resources minister in a cabinet reshuffle on 22 April. Klazen becomes the third fisheries minister since the 2019 reelection of Geingob and the resignation of Esau, who stepped down after it emerged that he allegedly received bribes to give preferential treatment to Samherji.

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