'I will finish what I started'

“I do owe Namibia. There was no way I would be quiet, there was no way I could have this on my conscience; I will take this all the way.” - Fishrot whistle-blower Johannes Stefansson

24 July 2020 | Justice

OGONE TLHAGE

WINDHOEK



Johannes Stefansson, the Icelandic national who lifted the veil on the corruption in Namibia's fishing industry, has told Namibian Sun he will testify when the Fishrot trials finally begin in the High Court.

“I have given an affidavit. When I will be called into court, I will come. One thing is certain, I will finish what I started,” Stefansson said during a telephonic interview yesterday.

He said there was no way he could ignore corruption, and said he owes Namibian citizens for his part in the scandal, which involves massive bribes being paid to politicians and officials in the Land of the Brave by Icelandic fishing company Samherji to facilitate access to the country's fishing grounds.



Fishrot cases

There are two main Fishrot cases. The first is the State vs Bernhardt Esau and five others, and the second is the State vs Mike Nghipunya and five others.

There are also two other Fishrot cases - one involving an alleged bribe offered to an Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) official and another involving the alleged removal of files from the home of former justice minister Sacky Shanghala.

Stefansson further opening up about the saga came a day after the Windhoek Magistrate's Court refused bail to former fisheries minister Esau and his son-in-law Tamson Hatukuilipi.





Windhoek magistrate Duard Kesslau denied the pair bail on account that they face a range of serious charges involving public funds, the magnitude of which has never been seen in Namibian courts before.



'I owe Namibia'

Fishcor is at the heart of the bribery scandal, which has landed Esau, Tamson, Shanghala, ex-Fishcor board chairperson James Hatuikulipi, suspended Fishcor CEO Nghipunya and former Investec business manager Ricardo Gustavo behind bars.

“I do owe Namibia. There was no way I would be quiet, there was no way I could have this on my conscience; I will take this all the way,” Stefansson said yesterday.

The whistle-blower was coy when asked about immunity in exchange for his testimony.

“They said that they would protect me; I do not know the details of how they will do that,” he said, referring to the ACC.

Stefansson leaked 30 000 documents, comprised of memos, emails, presentations, videos and photos that have now come to be known as the Fishrot Files on WikiLeaks, providing documentary evidence of the corruption that occurred in the fishing sector during his time as Samherji's representative in Namibia.



Syndicate

Stefansson's evidence alleges corruption by Esau, Shanghala and the rest of the Fishrot accused.

Shanghala had been accused of manipulating fishing laws during his time as attorney-general to enrich the cabal.

With an amendment to the Marine Resources Act, Esau had been given the discretion to award fishing quotas at will, which largely benefitted Samherji.

In recent arguments, state prosecutor Cliff Lutibezi described the scandal as being orchestrated as a syndicate.



Smear campaign

Stefansson said he is now the victim of a smear campaign.

An income tax notice of assessment has surfaced, alleging that he owes the finance ministry N$1.5 million in undeclared taxes.

“I had a salary from Arcticnam Fishing until the end of almost 2016. I had no salary in 2017 and therefore do not understand the tax assessment for 2017. I submitted my tax report for 2016 during 2017,” he said, adding that he contacted the ministry for clarity.

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