ACC reacts to strict Fishrot deadline

The commission says it is at the mercy of sovereign nations to cooperate with its investigators, while translation of bulky documents from foreign languages has also delayed progress.

16 September 2020 | Crime

OGONE TLHAGE

WINDHOEK



The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) says it is determined to finalise investigations into Fishrot before 14 December as ordered by a Windhoek magistrate on Monday.

Magistrate Vanessa Stanley this week gave the ACC until mid-December to finalise its probe into N$75.6 million that allegedly changed hands in exchange for fishing quotas allocated by the Namibian government to entities owned by former fisheries minister Bernhardt Esau, former justice minister Sacky Shanghala, former Investec CEO James Hatuikulipi, suspended Fishcor CEO Mike Nghipunya, businessman Tamson Hatuikulipi and Pius Mwatelulo.

The court hinted it would not grant ACC another extension and might release the accused if investigations are still incomplete in December.

Lawyers for the so-called Fishrot 7 had expressed concern at the anticipated timeframe it would take ACC to conclude investigations before trial could start.





Defence lawyers had also questioned whether there was a genuine effort for investigations into the matter to be finalised and had asked the court not to further postpone the matter for investigations.



Things take time

ACC director-general Paulus Noa yesterday said the agency would do what is required to comply with the court's directive.

“We will do what we have to in order to comply with the court order and to finalise investigations. Whether the time is sufficient, I do not want to answer,” Noa said.

Noa said the agency had received documents from various non-English-speaking countries that were bulky and need to be translated.

“All these things take time, it's just not one day.

“Within this period, we will see what we can do. We may give some documents to the prosecutor-general and produce charges and proceed. We do not want to be in defiance,” Noa said.

2020 unfortunate

Noa described 2020 as an unfortunate year that had delayed the pace at which investigations were moving, owing to lockdown measures imposed as many Namibians were forced to work from home during March and April. “Covid-19 delayed all the work done. It has not been a fortunate year. We wanted to get information from banking institutions but then you find that bank officials were working from home. The whole process is a slow process.”

Noa said the agency wanted to fast-track the process but was also at the mercy of countries it depended on for evidence.

“When you are requesting information from other countries you are at the mercy of other sovereign states,” he said.



Trying their best

Noa said ACC was committed to ensure that investigations would be completed within the allocated time.

“Within this scope we will try our level best. Definitely some documents will be sent to the prosecutor-general for decision and charging. We will try our level best to ensure certain documents to the office of the PG,” he said.

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