Fishcor 'instructed' to pay Swapo

In startling claims made in court, suspended Fishcor CEO says he authorised payments under duress from his then line minister.

09 June 2020 | Justice



Despite pockets of denial that Swapo did not benefit from proceeds of the so-called Fishrot scandal, Fishcor's suspended CEO Mike Nghipunya on Friday said he authorised payments to the ruling party on the instruction of ex-fisheries minister Bernhardt Esau.

The startling claims were made on Nghipunya's behalf by his lawyer Thabang Phatela in court last week during the disgraced executive's explosive bail application.

Prior to his suspension, Nghipunya led Fishcor between 2014 and 2019, during which the company was allocated fishing quotas worth more than N$900 million by Esau.

From the N$900 million worth of fishing quotas, The Namibian reported that Fishcor paid over N$100 million in kickbacks to “key people”.

Fingers point to Swapo

In documents made public by Wikileaks, Swapo is mentioned a number of times as having benefitted from the bribes.

Last week during his state of the nation address, party president Hage Geingob was asked to confirm or deny whether Swapo benefitted from the scandal. Geingob, who was largely evasive on Fishrot because of supposed advice by his lawyers, said investigations would answer such questions once completed.

“I've been advised by my lawyers not to discuss this matter because it's before the court,” the head of state told the National Assembly.

Wikileaks documents also suggest that companies owned by Swapo might have benefitted from the scandal. The court heard on Friday that benefit to the ruling party stemmed from Fishcor having to sell its quotas to meet government objectives. It was in this manner that the party also benefitted from the quota, the court further heard.

Nghipunya's lawyer argued last week that his client had acted within the bounds of the law when executing demands on behalf of his line minister Esau.

“Swapo was a beneficiary under government objectives. The decision-maker [Esau] was given the report and he was satisfied. All documents we looked at… there was no clause that gave you the conclusion he [Nghipunya] had the power to reverse or refuse the minister's decision. You cannot point to a single clause that gives him authority to refuse the minister,” Phatela argued. Nghipunya stands accused of charges related to money laundering.

Phatela was, during the cross-examination of Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) investigator Willem Olivier, alerted to how Nghipunya had contributed to the scandal by approving transactions that were transferred to the trust account of De Klerk, Horn & Coetzee Incorporated law firm.

N$75.6 million was transferred through the law firm's trust account to companies linked to Nghipunya's other co-accused, James Hatuikulipi, former justice minister Sakeus Shanghala, Tamson Hatuikulipi and Pius Mwatelulo.

Not on record

Swapo executive director Austin Samupwa yesterday reiterated that the party has no record of having received any money related to Fishrot.Efforts were also made to get comment from Swapo secretary-general Sophia Shaningwa and party secretary for finance, Tjekero Tweya.

Calls made to both went unanswered. In Wikileaks documents, it is suggested that Swapo has been benefitting from questionable transactions since 2011.

In a July 2011 situational report of Katla Seafood, a subsidiary of Icelandic company Samherji which is at the centre of the alleged bribes, a flowchart identifies all possible stakeholders in the consideration of fishing quota allocations.

Under the heading 'Payment for quota fee to quota holders – payment for quota levy and fees to authorities' one entry states: “Quota agreements: Quota owners, politburo (Swapo political party) and horse mackerel quota holders…”

Olivier had also last week informed the court that additional evidence would be presented to bolster the State's case on why Nghipunya should not be granted bail.

“We still have to receive investigations from other jurisdictions like Dubai,” he said.

Nghipunya's bail hearing is expected to continue tomorrow, with Olivier's cross-questioning set to continue.

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