Fishrot: Fishcor board faces scrutiny

Public enterprises minister Leon Jooste says investigations are underway regarding Fishcor's involvement in the Fishrot scandal.

14 February 2020 | Local News

Public enterprises minister Leon Jooste says his ministry will not hesitate to invoke provisions of the Companies Act if it can be proven that the Fishcor board did not act in the best interests of the state-owned company.

Fishcor finds itself at the centre of an international corruption scandal involving the allocation of lucrative horse mackerel fishing quotas in exchange for bribes from Icelandic fishing company Samherji.

The scandal has led to the suspension of its CEO Mike Nghipunya, while board chairperson James Hatuikulipi was forced to step down from his position. Hatuikulipi is also currently under arrest with his cousin Tamson, former justice minister Sacky Shanghala, former fisheries minister Bernhardt Esau, suspended Investec employee Ricardo Gustavo and Hanganeni employee Pius Mwatelulo in relation to what is known as the Fishrot scandal.

Jooste was asked if any measures were being taken to hold the Fishcor board members accountable with regard to the scandal that saw bribes to the tune of N$150 million allegedly being paid, in light of the current board's contracts coming to an end on 30 April.

The fisheries ministry this week called for applications from members of the public open to serving on Fishcor's board of directors.

“The outcome of current investigations will guide us as to whether any further actions are required and what form those should take,” said Jooste.

“In general, the ministry of public enterprises will not hesitate to invoke provisions of the Public Enterprise Governance Act or those of the Companies Act in cases where reckless or fraudulent behaviour of board members of public enterprises can be proven and, in both cases, board members may be held personally liable,” he added.



Alleged corrupt practices

Esau is alleged to have spoon-fed Fishcor fishing quotas during his tenure as fisheries minister.

Esau was able to allocate fishing quotas at his own discretion because of amendments to the Marine Resources Act in 2015.

Esau further spearheaded the appointment of Hatuikulipi as Fishcor board chairperson, without the knowledge of Fishcor's other board members, which included Ohangwena region governor Usko Nghaamwa, Khomas region governor Laura McLeod-Katjirua and Ndaendomwenyo Sheya, amongst others.

Nghaamwa told The Namibian in 2014 that a letter from Esau informed him of Hatuikulipi's appointment.

“I do not have a clear picture of his appointment. There was no board meeting about it, although I was told there would be one,” said Nghaamwa.

Sheya also confirmed at the time that Hatuikulipi was appointed by the minister but they couldn't say when the appointment was made.

“I cannot talk about his appointment. He was appointed by the minister in his own personal capacity. I can only talk about my appointment, otherwise speak to those who gave you the information for more information,” Sheya said.

Esau also subsequently brokered a deal spawning the creation of Seaflower Pelagic, a joint-venture between Fishcor and African Selection Fishing Namibia, which is owned by Angolan-based African Selection Trust.

Documents obtained by Al Jazeera show that from 2012 Samherji allegedly made payments of over US$10 million to Esau, as well as to companies owned by Shanghala, to Tamson and to his cousin James.

Documents show the majority of these payments were invoiced to Samherji as 'consultancy fees'.

OGONE TLHAGE

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