Esau children directors in Hatuikulipi entity

29 January 2021 | Justice

JEMIMA BEUKES



WINDHOEK

Two of former fisheries minister Bernhardt Esau’s children were appointed as directors in a company in which James Hatuikulipi has interests just months after the disgraced former minister appointed the latter to chair the board of the National Fishing Corporation of Namibia (Fishcor).

Esau’s daughter Ndapandula Hatuikulipi and son Phillipus Esau were appointed as directors of Gwaniilonga Investments CC on 14 April 2015, a month after Esau had appointed Hatuikulipi to chair the Fishcor board on 19 March 2015. Hatuikulipi is cited on the registration papers as the contact person.

The company, formerly known as Karee 147, is part of the Omholo Group.

Documents indicate that the company operates in areas such as manufacturing, distribution, construction, import and export, property investment and farming.

Namibian Sun could, however, not confirm suspicions that there was a quid pro quo relationship as far as the board appointment and directorship appointments are concerned.

Ndapandula is married to her father’s fellow Fishrot accused Tamson Hatuikulipi, who is James Hatuikulipi’s cousin.

Hot potato

Namibian Sun understands that the bookkeepers of Gwaniilonga Investment - SGA Chartered Accountants and Auditors - dumped the company days before the Fishrot scandal made global headlines.

An official at the audit firm, Karen Dauth, telephonically confirmed that while she could not share the reason, it is likely because of non-responsiveness on the part of directors.

SGA’s resignation as auditors of Gwaaniilonga Investments occurred exactly two days before the first report on the Fishrot bribery scandal was published by Al Jazeera on 23 November 2019.

“We were the appointed auditors of Gwaaniilonga Investments, but resigned to the directors on 21 November 2019. We therefore do not have the documents in our possession for inspection,” she said.

‘Competent’ man

James Hatuikulipi has continuously maintained that Esau’s decision to appoint him as board chair in September 2014 has nothing to do with the fact that Tamson Hatuikulipi is his cousin.

“I am a very professional man. I am very competent too. I know a lot of people whom I do business with. They do not have to be my family. Even you could be my family, so please judge me by my competence and not by who I know,” he was quoted as saying by The Namibian in 2014 soon after his appointment.

Both Phillipus and Ndapandula referred questions to their lawyer Richard Metcalfe, who also happens to represent their father and Tamson Hatuikulipi.

Audit firms that dealt with files of companies linked to the ongoing Fishrot trial are facing increased pressure and calls for action to be taken against them for failing to report dubious transactions.

Earlier this month, Namibian Sun reported that Stier Vente Associates, external auditors for beleaguered state fishing company Fishcor, only reported the suspicious Fishrot-related transactions to the regulator Public Accountants’ and Auditors’ Board (PAAB) on 21 February 2020, after the scandal had widely been reported in local and international media.

Contrived allegations

Metcalfe on Wednesday told Namibian Sun that the allegations involving Phillipus and Ndapandula appear ‘contrived’, but declined to comment because the matter is before the court.

He also criticised what he calls the “constant leak” of privileged documents from the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) docket to media houses and on social media, leaks which he deems an obstruction the course of justice.

“This unfortunately compromises the criminal prosecution and ensures that our clients are tried, convicted and hung out to dry before a fair trial commences. It is in effect a denial of our clients' constitutional right to be presumed innocent until convicted by a competent court of law,” he said.

He added that his clients consequently reserve their right to institute criminal charges against the entities who have leaked what appears to be the entire ACC docket.

As such, a criminal complaint of obstructing and/or perverting the course of justice will be instituted during the course of next week with the Namibian police, he said.

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