Fishcor CEO suspended over Fishrot

The axe fell on the young executive's head after a damaging documentary aired on Sunday, in which he was shown scheming to trade off national resources for personal gain.

03 December 2019 | Crime

Fishcor CEO Mike Nghipunya has been placed on suspension after it came to light that he had allegedly used his office as leader of the state-owned fishing company to allocate fishing rights in exchange for money.

An Al Jazeera documentary, 'Anatomy of a Bribe', secretly recorded Nghipunya promising journalists posing as investors access to fishing quotas, using Fishcor as a vehicle.

Bernhardt Esau, the then fisheries minister, stripped several private companies of fishing quotas and handed them to Fishcor, which is now at the centre of allegations that it passed on huge allocations of its quotas to Icelandic company Samherji, which paid the company's officials and local politicians handsome kickbacks in return.

Some of the companies that lost their quota allocations ended up retrenching employees as a result.

Al Jazeera journalists spent three months undercover posing as foreign investors looking to exploit the lucrative Namibian fishing industry. Nghipunya was one of the officials the undercover journalists held private meetings with.

Acting Fishcor board chairperson Bennet Kangumu confirmed to Namibian Sun yesterday that action was being taken against Nghipunya.

“The CEO has been placed on leave [suspension]. Investigations are currently under way. The board will convene and chart the way forward in light of the new evidence,” Kangumu said.

He did not say what measures it was looking at when asked what decisive action would be taken or whether law-enforcement authorities had been called in to assist.



Hands in the cookie jar

In the video, which was televised and also streamed on Al Jazeera's YouTube channel on Sunday, Nghipunya can be seen promising the supposed investor, identified as Johnny, fishing quotas in exchange for money.

“For as long as I am Fishcor CEO, for the next five years, you will get quotas from me,” Nghipunya said in the footage.

When news of the Fishrot scandal broke in November, Nghipunya told Namibian Sun that he had never received a bribe. “I do not even know why they listed my name because I never received a bribe,” he said at the time.

Walvis Bay lawyer Sacky Kadhila Amoomo, who was described as a “dealmaker” in the documentary, was shown assuring the purported investor: “He [Nghipunya] will make sure you get the quota and it is in his interest, because by virtue of having a 20% [stake] he has interest in the operation.”

Nghipunya further encouraged the 'investor' that the money would be channelled through Amoomo to him, using a company owned by the lawyer as a front, to hide the link between the investor and himself.

“What we are trying to do is to make sure that the whole deal is with Sacky. Then it becomes independent that I am just there to support you with your quota,” Nghipunya is seen as saying.





Amoomo further explains that he will channel the money through a company called SPK Consulting, of which he is the sole shareholder.

“This is my company of which I am the only shareholder and director. That is the only reason why we are using this company because we do not want anybody else asking questions,” he says.



What now for Amoomo?

Omualu Fishing chairperson Johannes Nanyala says his directors will meet to discuss Amoomo's future in light of his alleged role in the scandal.

“I do not have a comment yet, we [Omualu board] are still to meet to pronounce ourselves,” he said yesterday.

Government attorney Chris Nghaamwa is the deputy board chairperson of Omualu.

In the video, Amoomo tells 'Johnny' how he can secure his company the coveted fishing quota with the assistance of a person in the fisheries ministry.

When asked whether he believed his company had received quotas as a result of Amoomo's alleged scheming, no comment was forthcoming from Nanyala.

Nghipunya admitted in the video to having helped Amoomo get many fishing quotas for Omualu in the past.

Meanwhile, Bank Windhoek yesterday distanced itself from the scandal.

The documentary shows bank statements bearing the Bank Windhoek logo indicating that N$17 million was channelled through the trust account of lawyer Sisa Namandje. The trust is held at the bank.

“Bank Windhoek has zero tolerance for any corrupt practices and non-compliance with regulatory requirements and thus our approach has always been to report any suspicious activity and suspicious transactions as guided by Namibian law and Bank of Namibia regulations,” the bank said.

Meanwhile, the six people arrested in connection with the Fishrot debacle abandoned their bail application in the Windhoek Magistrate's Court yesterday.

They are former fisheries minister Esau, former justice minister Sacky Shanghala, former Fishcor board chairperson James Hatuikulipi, Esau's son-in-law Tamson 'Fitty' Hatuikulipi (who is also James' cousin), Investec Asset Management senior employee Ricardo Gustavo and Pius 'Taxa' Mwatelulo.

The accused men's defence lawyers and the State agreed not to proceed with the bail hearing. The matter was postponed to 20 February 2020 to allow further investigations and the accused will remain in custody until bail is granted.

OGONE TLHAGE

OGONE TLHAGE

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