Fishrot Six challenge search warrants

24 January 2020 | Justice

The so-called Fishrot Six have filed an urgent High Court application in a frantic attempt to overturn two sets of search warrants on their immovable properties issued by the magistrate's courts in Windhoek and Gobabis.

In a separate court application they are also challenging the freezing and/or blocking of their various personal and business bank accounts at the behest of the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC).

The six – former fisheries minister Bernhardt Esau, former justice minister Sackey Shanghala, co-accused James Hatuikulipi, Tamson Hatuikulipi, Ricardo Gustavo, and Pius Mwatelulo – are challenging the process followed in applying for the search warrants, the actual searches, the search warrants themselves, and the alleged conduct of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) and the Namibian police.

The two courts individually issued search warrants on 23 November and 9 December last year.

The accused are objecting to searches for large sums of cash, desktop computers, laptops, iPads, memory sticks and other electronic devices such as cellphones.

They claim there is not a single allegation that large amounts of cash were given to any one of them, or that their communications devices contain any information relevant to the investigation into the Fishrot scandal.

Furthermore, they claim that the search warrants did not specify the specific electronic devices that may be searched for.

They also object to an attempt to conduct searches at the business premises of Olea Investments, a company in which Shanghala and James Hatuikulipi hold shares.

Another objection is against a search conducted at a rental property of Tamson Hatuikulipi in Cimbebasia, where they claim tenants were harassed to hand over rental agreements to officials.



'Vague, overboard and unintelligible'

The accused claim that the search warrants are “vague, overboard and unintelligible”, and “fall short of nothing more than being a fishing expedition”.

They accuse the ACC of having seized firearms, rifles and ammunition from Esau's farm, as well as from Farm Dixie, in the presence of Shanghala and James Hatuikulipi. Farm Dixie is owned by Olea Investments.

Esau further claims that during a search carried out at Farm Dakota on 12 December, N$60 000 belonging to his son and about N$18 000 belonging to the farm were seized. He claimed that salaries and wages books were also seized.

He said during the same raid the keys to a double-cab bakkie were seized.

Esau claims that Shanghala's cars - a Range Rover Vogue and a Mercedes-Benz E400 - and Gustavo's vehicles have been seized, and that there are plans to seize James Hatuikulipi's vehicle.

Esau further complains that the search warrants made “fair game” of any bank deposit slips, financial statements, VAT returns, documents related to the acquisition or sales of properties or assets of the accused.

“It [the search warrants] authorises a blanket invasion and does not set down a basis why such a blanket invasion of rights would be authorised,” the accused state in their founding affidavit.

They further claim the search warrants grant law-enforcement officers “unlimited discretion”, and that they therefore can “do as they wish and seize whatever they determine in their opinion to be relevant”.

Privileged and confidential documents of Investec Asset Management Namibia, James Hatuikulipi's former employer, were allegedly also wrongfully seized.

The application will be heard by the High Court on 4 February.

CATHERINE SASMAN

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