N$10bn flagged as Fishrot loot

Financial intelligence on suspicious transactions linked to the Fishrot bribery scandal, involving about N$10 billion, has been passed on to law enforcement agencies, the police, the Anti-Corruption Commission and the prosecutor-general's office.

10 September 2020 | Crime

JEMIMA BEUKES

WINDHOEK



About N$17 billion has been identified by Namibia's Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) as the potential proceeds of crime, with N$10 billion suspected to be linked to the Fishrot bribery scandal.

This was confirmed by Bank of Namibia (BoN) governor Johannes !Gawaxab during the launch of the FIC's latest annual report yesterday.

“Relating to that case, there were transactions that looked suspicious amounting to a value of about N$10 billion and that intelligence has been passed on to law enforcement agencies, the police, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) and the prosecutor-general's office. It is now for them to investigate or examine to prove or disprove,” !Gawaxab said.

According to FIC director Leonie Dunn, from the start of the project, a total of 697 business and entity accounts and 303 individuals were analysed. In addition, 27 orders were made while 40 assets and 29 immovable properties were identified as the proceeds of crime, with 27 requests made to foreign financial intelligence units.





Evolution of criminal syndicates

Those implicated in the Fishrot scandal include former fisheries minister Bernhardt Esau, former justice minister Sacky Shanghala, former Fishcor board chair James Hatuikulipi, Investec employee Ricardo Gustavo, businessman Tamson Hatuikulipi and Pius Mwatelulo.

They face a string of charges including money-laundering, tax evasion and fraud.

The FIC also highlighted the evolution of organised criminal syndicates from old-fashioned models to highly sophisticated criminal enterprises using technology and crime networks.

“Proceeds of crime - the infamous Fishrot scandal - amongst others, potentially may reflect such sophistication of criminal enterprises. Methods employed by professional intermediaries, such as law firms, accountants, auditors, asset managers, estate agents, to mention a few, in using their services and expertise to knowingly and unknowingly facilitate the laundering of proceeds of crime,” the FIC annual report said.



Friends in high places

A number of prominent local lawyers have been accused of allegedly funnelling illicit proceeds from the Fishrot scandal through their legal firms' trust accounts.

According to senior investigator Willem Olivier, who was testifying during the bail hearing of Esau and his son-in-law Tamson in June, N$15 million and N$2.5 million were paid into local lawyer Sisa Namandje's trust account under the reference “governmental objectives”.

“This was flagged as suspicious. Part of this money was used for vehicles, personal loans and other items.

“And as far as investigations found, monies were used for the Swapo campaign,” Olivier said at the time.

He did not elaborate on which campaign of the ruling party benefitted from the bribery scandal.

Olivier also said Fishrot had led to massive pain for Namibia's citizens, including the suicides of fishermen who had lost their jobs due to the scandal.

According to him, Fishcor lost N$75 million meant to support drought relief, feeding schemes and offer cheaper fish to Namibians.



Over N$1bn 'parked' in Kazakhstan

Olivier also told the court there was an amount of US$63 million (about N$1.05 billion) parked in a bank account in Kazakhstan, which the ACC is investigating to see how it is linked to the Fishrot accused.

Another lawyer, Maren de Klerk, was the only one who had legal access to this account.

Also under investigation is Walvis Bay lawyer Sacky Kadhila-Amoomo, who allegedly played the role of 'fixer' between foreign business people and Esau. Namandje and Kadhila-Amoomo were identified in an Al Jazeera documentary that investigated the bribery scandal in Namibia's fishing industry.

According to court evidence, De Klerk is alleged to have syphoned N$50 million in illicit financial flows through the trust account of his law firm.



Exorbitant amounts

During the Esau bail hearing, it also came to light that exorbitant amounts were allegedly paid to local asset management companies.

These include IJG Securities, Pointbreak and Investec by De Klerk, Horn & Coetzee, the law firm co-owned by De Klerk.

According to court documents, Pointbreak received N$22 million, IJG Securities N$49 million and N$12.5 million and Investec N$10 million from the trust account of De Klerk, Horn & Coetzee.



More evidence

Namibian Sun also reported earlier this year that the ACC was gunning for more evidence related to the Fishrot bribery case and was in discussions with other anti-graft agencies to ensure the release of emails withheld by Icelandic whistleblower Jóhannes Stefánsson.

It is alleged that Stefánsson has in his possession 44 000 emails, of which only 18 000 have been released to WikiLeaks and international anti-graft agencies.

Icelandic fishing company Samherji, which is accused of paying bribes in exchange for Namibian horse-mackerel fishing quotas, alleges Stefánsson cherry-picked the emails he leaked to WikiLeaks. Stefánsson was Samherji's country manager for Namibia.

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