No questioning, warrants for Samherji employees

Fishing company Samherji says Namibian authorities have no legal authority to demand the extradition of Icelandic citizens.

08 December 2020 | Crime

OGONE TLHAGE

WINDHOEK

Icelandic fishing company Samherji says the Namibian police have made no effort to question its employees in connection with their alleged role in the Fishrot scandal.

Documents released by the prosecutor-general’s office indicated that arrest warrants had been issued for Samherji employees Ingvar Juliusson and Egil Arnsason. Both face possible extradition to Namibia.

The PG’s office added that there were reasonable grounds to believe that Esja Holdings, Mermaria Seafood, Saga Seafood and Esja Investments would be convicted of corrupt practices.

The companies are linked to Samherji and are alleged to have benefited from the bribery scandal.

The PG’s office said Samherji’s benefits are estimated at N$547 million. The company is allegedly paid bribes to secure horse-mackerel quotas in Namibia. The PG’s office has seized and sold Samherji’s Heinaste fishing vessel to Tunacor Fishing.

Extradition attempt

Samherji spokesperson Margrét Ólafsdóttir said in a statement that the Namibian police had not requested to question the employees named in court papers.

“The Namibian authorities have no legal authority to demand the extradition of Icelandic citizens as there is no agreement between the states on the extradition,” Ólafsdóttir said.

“In fact, Namibian officials seem to be fully aware that they will not be able to interfere with Samherji's current or former employees, as the Namibian authorities, or any other authorities acting on their behalf, have made no attempt to contact any of these individuals or the company itself, in Iceland or in other countries, where the employees in question have been working,” Ólafsdóttir said.

Samherji’s alleged role

“Due to the legislative restrictions applicable to the allocation of fishing quotas, the only way that Samherji could have obtained quotas was by circumventing the normal rules and procedures applicable in terms of the Marine Resources Act,” the PG’s office said in an affidavit.

“A scheme was devised whereby [former fisheries minister Bernhard] Esau would enter into a memorandum of understanding with his Angolan counterpart, purportedly to be a fisheries agreement as provided for in terms of Section 35 of the Marine Resources Act,” the office of the PG explained.

This agreement was, in reality, designed to be the tool through which the defendants would gain access to fishing quotas in the furtherance of their unlawful scheme, it said.

“Before Esau entered into the MoU, Gustavo, a colleague of James Hatuikulipi at Investec, purchased a shelf company known as Paw Print Investments and applied for the name change of this company to Namgomar Pesca,” the office of the PG said.

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