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Fishrot: N$3.4m of Esau's assets unfrozen

Kristien Kruger
About N$3.4 million of Bernhardt Esau's frozen assets are expected to be transferred into the account of his legal representatives.

This after Judge Beatrix de Jager delivered a verdict yesterday in an application brought by Esau, the former fisheries minister who was thrust into the centre of the so-called Fishrot scandal in which more than N$300 million allegedly exchanged hands in the form of fishing quota bribes.

In November 2019, reports emerged that Esau took bribes in exchange for providing fishing quotas to Icelandic fishing company Samherji. Esau resigned from his ministerial portfolio in the wake of the allegations. He was subsequently arrested on these charges, along with former justice minister Sacky Shanghala and eight others. His assets were placed under a restraining order.

Last year, after his lawyers deserted him, Esau demanded that government pay for his new legal representative because he was charged in his capacity as minister.

At the beginning of this year, he brought an application that a portion of his assets be made available to him to enable him to pay his lawyers. This after Esau's application for legal aid was rejected and he argued that if this application - for his assets to be unfrozen - does not succeed, he will be without representation.

In De Jager's court order, she pointed out that the amounts that will be made available may be less if it is determined that the amounts he has to pay are lower than what his lawyers said.

Millions in legal fees

Esau applied for N$1.2 million to pay his legal representatives from Metcalfe Beukes Attorneys. These fees have been outstanding since January 2021. He also applied for a further N$2.2 million to pay his future legal fees.

According to his representatives, Florian Beukes and Richard Metcalfe, they agreed on an hourly fee of N$1 800 and a daily fee of N$18 000.

"Considering the facts supporting the provision for legal fees, the amount appears to be reasonable. In itself, the amount is substantial, but not unreasonable compared to the value of the applicants' estate. The applicants' immovable property is [valued at] approximately N$21.7 million,” the judgment read.

The case was brought against Prosecutor-General Martha Imalwa and the liquidators of the Fishrot defendants' assets, David Bruni and Ian McLaren.

"The amounts must be paid by the second [Bruni] and third [McLaren] respondents or their successor into the business trust account of Metcalfe Beukes Attorneys," De Jager's court order read.

Failed to disclose

Opposing the application, Imalwa claimed that Esau had failed to disclose all his financial information to the court - one of the requirements for an application of this nature. Another requirement is that Esau had to prove that he does not have the finances available - except for the frozen assets - to pay his legal costs.

“The court is satisfied that the applicants have disclosed their interests in the property under oath and submitted a sworn and complete statement of all their assets and liabilities. This court is further satisfied that the applicants cannot cover the relevant expenses from their available property," the judgment read.

Esau's wife Swamma is also included in the application because they are married in community of property.

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Namibian Sun 2024-07-17

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