ACC after Samherji assets

03 February 2020 | Crime

LEANDREA LOUW



An Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) investigation team is using all available legal options to ensure that properties linked to Icelandic company Samherji are seized after its vessel sneaked out of the country in the dead of the night last Wednesday.

ACC director-general Paulus Noa confirmed the commission’s pursuit of Samherji’s assets.

Samherji’s vessel Saga, which is linked to the Fishrot bribery scandal, allegedly left Namibian waters on Wednesday evening – leaving 120 Namibian fishermen in the dark.

“These properties may include vessels. It appears the vessel in question is flying a Namibian flag, thus efforts are under way to get it back. We appealed to foreign authorities to render international cooperation and ensure that the properties linked to this case are not disposed of. International mutual legal assistance is critical in this matter,” said Noa.

According to some of the 120 fishermen left stranded by the sudden departure of the vessel, Saga left Walvis Bay with them being under the impression that it was being taken for repairs in Las Palmas, Spain.

The vessel is owned by Saga Seafood and is under charter to Esja Seafood Limited, a subsidiary company of Samherji in Cyprus.

Samherji is at the centre of the international fishing bribery scandal implicating former minister of justice Sacky Shangala, former minister of fisheries Bernard Esau and four others.

The company reportedly paid bribes of about N$150 million to secure access to Namibian horse-mackerel quotas between 2012 and 2018.

Saga was one of the trawlers used for catching the allocated horse-mackerel quota.

Noa reiterated that ACC remained deeply committed to get to the bottom of the Fishrot case.

“We strongly advise that no vessel linked to this case must be permitted to leave the Namibian ports without ACC or Namibian police being notified. More arrests will follow soon.”

He appealed to citizens to come forward and provide information to the ACC rather than talking on the streets and on social media.

“Successful investigations depend on concrete information and evidence presented to the investigation body and not mere protests and baseless talks. Protests must be complimented by information.”

Another vessel linked to Samherji, the Heinaste, was impounded in December 2019 after it was caught fishing in a restricted zone area near Walvis Bay.

The two captains, Icelander Angrimu Kristinn Brynjolfson (67) and Russian national Fetisov Iurii (58), were arrested and each paid N$100 000 bail.

Brynjolfson will be sentenced on Wednesday.

In the continuation of the case against Brynjolfson, Bean Mbeurora Tjizoo, chief fisheries biologist for pelagic resources, indicated that there was a link between Saga Seafood and Heinaste in terms of ownership.

During the proceedings, lawyers of the accused stated that the captain was an employee of Saga Seafood and that a charter agreement existed between Saga Seafood and Heinaste for which the accused steered the vessel.

According to the lawyers, the State failed to prove that the two companies have the same shareholders or board of directors since it did not submit evidence who the board of directors of Saga Seafood is.

They furthermore said that their client did not know that fishing in the restricted area was wrong, and that no one from his company was involved.

“Since his arrest the owner of the vessel has installed sophisticated equipment to guide the captain to ensure that laws are not broken. It would be a grave injustice to hold the owners liable for the actions of the employee rather the independent contractor who was used to charter the vessel.”

The case was postponed to 5 February for sentencing. The case against Iurii Shupeltsov was also postponed to 10 February.

In 2018, ArcticNam Fishing Limited unveiled the MV Heinaste as a Namibian-flagged vessel. The fishing trawler previously operated under a foreign flag in Namibian waters. ArcticNam is a joint venture by Samherji and three Namibian joint venture companies: Sinco Fishing, Yukor Fishing and Epango Fishing.

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