Fishrot six under tax scrutiny

04 December 2019 | Crime

Finance minister Calle Schlettwein says his ministry is investigating potential tax evasion linked to the unfolding Fishrot scandal.

Schlettwein took to social media earlier this week and posted hard-hitting commentary on the scandal after international news channel Al Jazeera further lifted the veil on how over N$150 million in bribes were allegedly paid to Namibian politicians and officials by an Iceland seafood company, in exchange for access to Namibia's fishing quotas. The documentary titled 'Anatomy of a Bribe' was aired on Sunday.

“The Al Jazeera video shows a typical case of resource looting from a developing country [Namibia] by a multi-national company [Samherji] with the involvement of few highly placed and influential Namibians. It is criminal. All must be prosecuted. The process has started, [it] must be completed,” his tweet read.

Schlettwein said yesterday the tax investigation linked to the Fishrot scandal is ongoing, when asked by Namibian Sun.

He was further asked if his ministry was working closely with the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) and whether it had handed over any evidence of possible tax evasion, but did not respond.

Icelandic company Samherji had secured lucrative fishing quotas that were allocated by former fisheries minister Bernhardt Esau following an amendment of the Marine Resources Act.

His cabinet colleague and now former justice minister Sacky Shanghala was the attorney-general when the law was amended.

Esau and Shanghala had struck a deal with the Angolan government to enable Samherji greater access to quotas in both countries in 2014.

It is alleged that the duo and associates close to them had received US$10 million in bribes paid to them by the Icelandic company.

In an interview with Al Jazeera Shanghala was asked how he viewed the level of corruption in the fishing sector and what his office could do to stop these corrupt practices.

Shanghala said: “I have been at the forefront of reforming the fishing industry. We have all the legislation in place and what we have picked up is that yes there is corruption, but it is very miniscule. It is not really an issue we are worried about.”

The Fishrot Six abandoned their bail application in the Windhoek Magistrate's Court on Monday.

Esau, Shanghala, former Fishcor board chairperson James Hatuikulipi, Esau's son-in-law Tamson 'Fitty' Hatuikulipi (who is also James' cousin), Investec Asset Management senior employee Ricardo Gustavo and Pius 'Taxa' Mwatelulo are the six accused in the matter.

The defence lawyers and the State agreed not to proceed with the bail hearing.

The matter was postponed to 20 February 2020 to allow for further investigations and the accused will remain in custody until then.