Fitty rakes in millions from string of unexplained ‘work’
08 January 2021 | Crime
Three Icelandic-controlled companies paid N$14 million for consultancy services to Erongo Clearing and Forwarding, a clearing agency owned by former fisheries minister Bernard Esau's son-in-law Tamson 'Fitty' Hatuikulipi.
The payments, made by Katla Seafood Namibia and Mermaria Seafood Namibia between 21 July 2014 and 26 May 2016, are contained in thousands of documents published by Wikileaks that were leaked by former Samherji boss in Namibia Johannes Stefansson in 2019. During a failed bail attempt in the Windhoek Magistrate's Court last year, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) also revealed that Esja Fishing, a subsidiary of the Samherji group of companies in Iceland, had paid N$29 million to Hatuikulipi's clearing agency. It is not clear whether this was also consulting fees.
An investigation by Namibian Sun found that Katla Seafood and Mermaria are in actual fact one entity. Katla Seafood was registered in 2011 and in 2014 it was renamed Mermaria Seafood.
The company is currently part of a group of companies entangled in the high-profile Fishrot court case involving money laundering, fraud and tax evasion charges. Since the start of the case there has been speculation about Hatuikulipi's role in the Fishrot scandal.
Now, for the first time, a wider set of facts about his clearing agency have emerged, which shines light on how he made his millions in the dark corners of the Fishrot scandal.
Hatuikulipi allegedly made millions through his clearing agency by charging consultancy fees to companies involved in the Fishrot syndicate. He would then transfer the consultancy fees raked in to companies owned by other accused persons in the Fishrot scandal. Hatuikulipi, according to court documents, owns 22 immovable properties across the country, with a combined value of N$40 million, and cars worth N$12 million.
Namibian Sun is in possession of several invoices in which Erongo Clearing and Forwarding invoiced Katla Seafood and Mermaria Seafood millions in consulting fees.
On 21 July 2014 his clearing agency received N$5 million from Katla Seafood; in November that year, another payment of N$2.1 million was received from Katla. On 2 November 2014 the agency invoiced Katla Seafood Namibia N$2.1 million for consulting fees. On 6 April 2016, the agency charged Mermaria Seafood Namibia N$3 million. The payment description was “extra work”.
In another invoice dated 26 May 2016, Hatuikulipi's agency charged Mermaria N$500 000. This was also a consultancy fee. On the same day the agency submitted another invoice of N$3 million to Mermaria, also for consultancy services.
Namgomar Pesca (Pty) Limited, which received millions from various subsidiaries of Samherji, was also one of the benefactors of Erongo Clearing and Forwarding, having transferred N$20 million to the agency.
The agency then transferred N$3.2 million to JTH Investments (a company owned by Tamson Hatuikulipi), N$5.5 million to Fitty Entertainment, N$1.8 million to former Fishcor board chair James Hatuikulipi, N$300 000 to AL Investments (a company owned by Tamson and his wife).
While Erongo Clearing and Forwarding invoiced Esja Fishing for consultancy services, sources privy to the Fishrot court case said there is no evidence of consultancy work being done by Erongo Clearing and Forwarding for Esja Fishing.
“There is no documentary evidence of his company doing consultancy for Esja. In fact, tell me which fishing companies would pay so much for consultancy services. It must be a cover-up for other things they did which they do not want to reveal,” said the source. ACC investigator Willem Olivier told the court that Erongo Forwarding and Clearing transferred the money received from Esja Fishing from its bank account to companies linked to some of his co-accused in the Fishrot case.
In an affidavit deposed by Stefansson on 4 June 2019, he revealed that Katla Seafood had entered into a consultancy agreement with Erongo Clearing and Forwarding.
“The agreement was made to cover the payments/bribes to him and others, including Minister [Bernard] Esau through Erongo Clearing and Forwarding as they were working to get quotas for Samherji in which they would benefit,” he said in his affidavit.
He added: “The invoices reflect 'consultancy fee' but this is just a description to make it appear legitimate. No consulting services were delivered to Katla Seafood Namibia.”
Stefansson also commented on how James Hatuikulipi was unhappy about unpaid quota fees to Angolan officials during March 2014.
According to the affidavit, James told Stefansson: “Both (fisheries) ministers in Angola and Namibia are working to ensure that we gain access to these fishing grounds. The ministers have mobilised the state machinery to ensure that the cooperation agreement is in place.”
The bilateral agreement was signed on 18 June 2014 and on 1 July 2014, Namgomar Pesca Namibia was awarded a 7 000-tonne fishing quota.
Following the signing of the agreement, Stefansson said James Hatuikulipi indicated that N$5 million was needed for payments to 'higher politicians' in Namibia.
“This amount was subsequently paid from the First National Bank account (of Katla) to the account of Erongo Clearing and Forwarding,” he said.
The payment was made on 21 July 2014, just over a month after the Namibia-Angola bilateral agreement had been signed.
Throughout his bail application, 'Fitty' Hatuikulipi maintained that the monies paid to his companies were not bribes and that the money he made was for legitimate work done.
Consultancy fees received:
21 July 2014
2 November 2014
6 April 2016
26 May 2016
26 May 2016