Comedy of errors exposed in Samherji vessel getaway

13 February 2020 | Crime

The search is on for Icelandic fishing company Samherji's Geysir fishing vessel after it was allowed to leave the port of Walvis Bay earlier this month.

The vessel, apparently bound for Mauritania, is believed to have left the port under the cover of darkness, leaving hundreds of fishermen stranded at the coast.

The search forms part of efforts by the Namibian police to attach Samherji's assets. The police have so far managed to seize the Heinaste fishing trawler belonging to Samherji.

Acting fisheries minister Albert Kawana said efforts to have the ship stopped were in full swing.

“We are in touch with the relevant authorities. We want that vessel to be detained. We have alerted the jurisdiction [in which the vessel is currently] so that it can be detained,” said Kawana.

He did not want to reveal the ship's whereabouts for fear that it may change course.

Kawana added that there were investigations to determine how permission was granted for the vessel to leave Namibia. The Namibia Ports Authority (Namport) last week denied that it had given Samherji's vessels Geysir and Saga permission to leave port, saying police clearances had been granted following the granting of permission by the ministry of fisheries.

“They are investigating. I am not sure if it is correct to say that it was released by fisheries,” Kawana said.

Nampol has in the meantime been able to seize another Samherji vessel, Heinaste.

The head of Nampol's criminal investigation directorate, Nelius Becker, last week said the seizure was done in terms of Article 28 of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act (POCA) because the vessel was linked to the Fishrot bribery case.

“We had reasonable grounds to believe that the vessel might leave Namibia. The authorities will hold onto the vessel until the prosecutor-general decides on the way forward,” Becker said.

Samherji said it would challenge the seizure.

“It is our view that the renewed seizure of Heinaste is wrongful under Namibian law and we will now take necessary legal steps in Namibia in court if necessary,” said the company's interim chief executive officer, Björgólfur Jóhannsson.

Jóhannsson argued that only a convicted person can have their assets seized under Namibian law and that Samherji had not been charged, let alone convicted, of any offence in Namibia.

The Heinaste was first seized when it was found fishing in restricted waters. Its captain, Icelandic national Arngrímur Brynjólfsson, was last week found guilty of fishing in a protected zone and fined N$900 000 or 12 years' imprisonment.



OGONE TLHAGE

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