Fishrot bribery ring widens

New Fishrot accused offered ACC investigator N$250k

23 January 2020 | Crime

While the main accused in the Fishrot bribery scandal await a hearing date in the Supreme Court to challenge their incarceration, another hanger-on, who allegedly tried to bribe an Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) investigator, has joined them behind bars.

Jason Iiyambo is accused of having offered an ACC investigator a bribe of N$250 000 to hand over the Investec bank cards assigned to former MD James Hatuikulipi and another bank card belonging to Pius Mwatelulo.

Both Hatuikulipi and Mwatelulo are among the so-called Fishrot Six accused already in custody.

Iiyambo faces charges in connection with bribing an ACC investigator. Magistrate Linus Samunzala denied Iiyambo bail during a brief appearance in the Windhoek Magistrate's Court yesterday.

Prosecutor Tatelo Lusepani objected to bail on the grounds that it would not be in the interest of justice for Iiyambo to be released. It was also argued that he would interfere with the unfolding investigations if granted bail.

The case against Iyambo was postponed to February 20, when the so-called Fishrot Six will make their next court appearance. He will appear separately, the court heard.

His lawyer, Mervin Katuvesirauina, indicated they would be bringing a formal bail application.

ACC director-general Paulus Noa told Namibian Sun on Tuesday that an investigative officer of the commission had been offered money from the account of an unnamed Fishrot suspect in return for gaining access to the bank cards.

“We arrested someone last night (on Monday) for attempting to bribe an investigating officer to remove the ATM cards [from our offices],” Noa said late on Tuesday.

Former justice minister Shanghala, former fisheries minister Bernhard Esau, Hatuikulipi, suspended Investec manager Ricardo Gustavo, Esau's son-in-law Tamson Hatuikulipi and Hanganeni employee Pius Mwatelulo are said to have taken bribes from Icelandic fishing company Samherji in exchange for lucrative fishing quotas.

Last week Namibian Sun reported that Nigel van Wyk, who faces a charge of obstructing the course of justice by trying to remove material believed to be evidence from the house of former justice minister Sacky Shanghala, had abandoned his bail application.

Van Wyk is believed to be an employee of Olea Investments, a company owned by Shanghala. Olea allegedly received US$330 000 in bribes paid by Samherji.

The original Fishrot Six are being held at the Windhoek Central Correctional Facility until their next court appearance on 20 February, but following an unsuccessful bid to have the charges thrown out in the High Court, they have now launched an appeal in the Supreme Court.

Late last year the Law Society of Namibia confirmed it was investigating lawyer Sisa Namandje's trust account in light of revelations made in the Al Jazeera 'Fishrot' documentary.

Namandje's law firm's trust account is alleged to have channelled N$17.5 million in financial flows from public entity Fishcor.

Also under investigation is Walvis Bay lawyer Sacky Kadhila Amoomo, who allegedly played the role of fixer between foreign business people and Esau.

This followed after thousands of leaked documents showed that the accused had conspired with Samherji to receive bribes estimated at N$150 million in exchange for horse-mackerel fishing quotas.

While announcing Samherji's intention to de-invest in Namibia last week, company CEO Björgólfur Jóhannsson failed to give a timeframe, only saying that the process would “take some time”.

Govt red-faced

Acting fisheries minister Albert Kawana announced in December that workers who had lost their jobs due to Namsov losing its fishing quota under dubious circumstances during Esau's tenure would be given jobs again.

“I was given a directive by cabinet to make sure that all those that lost their jobs get their jobs back as soon as possible,” Kawana said in Walvis Bay, where he addressed fishing industry representatives and workers.

“And these workers should go back to work, as this is a directive by President Hage Geingob.

“They have suffered enough and their families have suffered enough and the time has come for them to have bread on the table.”

Kawana added that even the workers who had taken part in an illegal strike a few years ago would be re-employed, as people cannot be punished forever for their mistakes.

He also said that although the Fishrot scandal has angered many, everyone should allow the law to determine the final outcome.

It has been widely reported that job losses in the fishing industry over the years were caused by Esau's reallocation of fishing quotas to those linked to the unfolding Fishrot bribery scandal.

“What happened is before court. Let the law take its course. There are various institutions investigating the case, not only in this country but also internationally,” Kawana said.

Kawana was tasked by Geingob late last month to undertake an assessment and an evaluation of the country's marine resources and eliminate maladministration, nepotism and corruption.

He was also tasked to review the affairs and administration of the ministry of fisheries and Fishcor over the last ten years.