Fishrot investigators get more time

Court refuses to remove case from the roll

04 June 2020 | Justice



The State has been allowed more time to complete its investigations into the Fishrot bribery scandal. Windhoek magistrate Ingrid Unengu yesterday refused to set a trial date for the matter when delivering her ruling in the Windhoek Magistrate's Court. The matter has been postponed to 28 August. A lawyer representing one of the Fishrot Six, Tinashe Chibwana, argued that the State was using a “detention without trial tactic” and it said no investigations into the matter had been done since November, when the suspects were arrested. Former fisheries minister Bernhardt Esau, former justice minister Sacky Shanghala, former Investec CEO James Hatuikulipi, former Investec client manager Ricardo Gustavo, Hanganeni employee Pius Mwatulelo and Esau's son-in-law Tamson Hatuikulipi are the main accused in the Fishrot case. Fishcor CEO Mike Nghipunya was subsequently arrested in February this year.

Delaying tactics

Chibwana last week opposed the postponement of the case and urged the State to set a trial date or remove the case from the court roll, saying that by being kept in custody, their clients' rights were being violated. Deputy prosecutor-general Ed Marondedze said the investigation started five months ago when the suspects were arrested, and this has not been enough time to finish the probe, given the magnitude of the case.

The prosecution would need more time as investigations were being conducted in several African countries, Europe and the United Arab Emirates, he added.

He said investigations were ongoing in Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe, Spain, Iceland, Cyprus, Dubai, Sweden and Norway.

More arrests are expected to be made in Angola and Iceland, Marondedze said.

“This case was conducted in a sophisticated manner in which various communication platforms were used; it requires diplomacy.

“The State is working around the clock to finalise the investigations and start with trials, but a longer period of time is needed to finalise the investigations,” he said.

Fishrot files

The so-called Fishrot Files, published in December 2019 by WikiLeaks, comprised emails, memos, PowerPoint presentations, company financial records, photos and videos, and show how Samherji, one of Iceland's largest fishing companies, allegedly colluded with senior political and business figures in Namibia, including Esau and Shanghala, to gain preferential access to the country's lucrative fishing grounds.

Documents obtained by Al Jazeera show that from 2012, Samherji made payments of over US$10 million (N$175 million) to Esau, as well as to companies owned by Shanghala, Tamson Hatuikulipi, and to his cousin, James, the then chairman of Fishcor.