Namibian High Court allows consolidation of “Fishrot” bribery scandal cases
The Namibian High Court approved an application by the country’s prosecution to consolidate two fishery bribery cases involving two former ministers and several other co-accused, in what has been described as Namibia’s biggest corruption scandal.
Justice Christie Liebenberg said the charges against former Namibia Fisheries Minister Bernardt Esau and former Namibia Minister of Justice Sakeus Shanghala and their co-accused should be consolidated into one case to avoid duplication of evidence and for the interest of the suspects and rule of law, New Era Live reported.
"The spoils generated from the unlawful enterprise are the proceeds of crime and must be proved in both cases. To this end, a duplication of evidence would not be in the interest of the accused person neither the interest of justice," Liebenberg said in his ruling.
Esau headed Namibia's Fisheries Ministry when an illegal award of horse mackerel quota to a private Namibian company, Namgomar Pesca, was allegedly carried out in exchange for bribes. The situation received publicity when Wikileaks posted a number of documents pertinent to the case, which as become known as the “Fishrot” scandal. Esau has denied any wrongdoing in the case.
The prosecution claims several private companies were stripped of fishing quotas that were later passed on to Namibian affiliates of Iceland-based Samherji by Fishcor, Namibia’s state-owned fishing firm.
The fishery corruption scandal involves Esau; Shanghala; former Fishcor Board Chairman James Hatuikulipi; ex-Fishcor CEO Mike Nghipunya; Namgomar Director Ricardo Gustavo; Pius Mwatelulo; Otneel Shuudifonya; Phillipus Mwapop; and Nigel van Wyk. All have denied any wrongdoing.
Lawyer Marén de Klerk, in his role as as a representative of Celax Investments, has also been added to the list of those charged. Celax Investments was allegedly used as a conduit to funnel millions of dollars from Fishcor to the bank accounts of the accused. De Klerk has not yet been apprehended due to extradition difficulties between Namibia and South Africa.
Icelandic nationals Egill Helgi Arnason, Ingvar Juliusson, and Helgason Adelsteinn – who have also been linked to the scandal – remain in Iceland, which has refused to extradite them to Namibia, citing a lack of a reciprocol treaty.
In the first case – involving Namgomar, Esau, Shanghala, James Hatuikulipi, Tamson Hatuikulipi, Gustavo, Mwatelulo, Van Wyk, Shuudifonya, and Mwapopi – the defendants are charged with receiving payments of at least NAD 103.6 million (USD 6.9 million EUR 5.9 million) to allow Icelandic fishing company Samherji secure access to horse mackerel quotas in Namibia.
The second case – involving Fishcor, Esau, Shanghala, Tamson, James, Mwatelulo, and Nghipunya – carries charges of racketeering, fraud, and money laundering.
The consolidated corruption scandal case will be filed in court no later than 18 October, 2021. The consolidated case will collapse into charge sheets that contain seven counts of racketeering, 12 counts of contravening the Anti-Corruption Act, four counts of fraud – alternatively theft – and four counts of money laundering.
Photo courtesy of the Namibian High Court