Offshore family ties that bind

President Hage Geingob's family ties to defence minister Peter Vilho will be tested today when the two men meet over the latter's undisclosed offshore account.

06 April 2021 | Local News



President Hage Geingob is stuck between a rock and a hard place as political parties, activists and the broader society want defence minister Peter Vilho to fall on his sword for hiding a million-dollar offshore account.

Geingob wants Vilho to explain the Hong Kong unit trust account which holds just under N$4 million, despite Vilho telling the media that what he does with his money is his prerogative.

The president is one of the politicians who have over the years declared their bank accounts held in foreign jurisdictions, having previously publicly declared during his time as prime minister that he has a bank accounts in the United States of America and the United Kingdom.

Today’s meeting will be a tricky one for both Geingob and Vilho due to past family ties and the fact that Vilho was a career soldier until he was handpicked by Geingob last year as a presidential appointee to lead the defence ministry.

When he married Loini Geingos in 1993, Geingob became the stepfather of her eldest son, Helmut Angula, who is named after former Cabinet minister Helmut Angula.

Vilho and former minister Angula are brothers and uncles to Geingob’s former stepson, who was fathered by their late brother Simon ‘Kandjeke’ Angula.

Simon was previously married to Loini.

Former minister Angula’s daughter, Phillipine, was also a person of interest in the probe against former army general Martin Shalli, who allegedly received money through Vilho’s Hong Kong account.

Offshore eco brothers

While the Hong Kong account and transactions linked to it prompted Geingob to summon the former navy boss, Vilho's brother, Helmut is also linked to other offshore dealings.

According to the 2020 parliamentary asset declaration register, Vilho declared that he is a partner in a close corporation called Eco Properties CC.

According to an offshore leaks database released by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists a few years ago, his brother in the independent director Eco (Atlantic) Oil & Gas Ltd. He rakes in about N$1.5 million per annum.

Eco (Atlantic) Oil & Gas Ltd has a tax haven-based subsidiary named Eco Namibia Oil & Gas (Barbados) Ltd in Barbados.

Despite the similar names, it is unclear whether there are any links between Vilho’s company and the exploration firm in which his brother has significant interests.

Eco (Atlantic) Oil & Gas Ltd is a development stage company that engages in the identification, acquisition and exploration of petroleum, natural gas and shale gas properties.

The company has four offshore petroleum licenses covering 25 000 square kilometres in Namibia.

Geingob’s headache

Experts say Geingob is now faced with the task of taking action against Vilho to show that his anti-corruption campaign is not just political rhetoric.

Political analyst Ndumbah Kamwanyah said Geingob finds himself in a tight spot because the public attention is focused on him to see how he will handle the matter.

During his first term, Geingob had to reshuffle three ministers - Sacky Shanghala, Obeth Kandjoze and Alpheus !Naruseb - after widespread corruption allegations were levelled against them.

Geingob also does not have a notable track record of firing ministers who are accused of acting contrary to their oath of office. He would often summon them to State House and many would resign from their positions after the closed-door meetings.

These included former education, fisheries and justice ministers Kartrina Hanse-Himarwa, Bernhardt Esau and Shanghala.

Step up

The official opposition party, Popular Democratic Movement (PDM), said Geingob must live up to his accountability and transparency preaching.

PDM’s parliamentary chief whip Vipuakuje Muharukua yesterday said “if [the] president is to set the country on the right road of accountable governance, he must set that precedent”.

“The Harembee Prosperity Plan placed emphasis on anti-corruption and transparency. Two ministers are in jail. One is now heavily implicated. [The] prime minister is alleged to be in questionable deals and others pointed in many corrupt activities. The question is, out of all 2.5 million Namibians, you [choose to] appoint more than three implicated persons,” he said.

Muharukua added: “Surely, in countries with proper accountability, that whole Cabinet and the appointing authority would resign”.

Kamwanyah said Vilho must have a good excuse to satisfy Geingob on why he failed to declare the account.

“Following the letter from Geingob in which he summoned Vilho and looking at Harambee Prosperity Plan II, which deals with the declaration of assets of ministers under the pillar of effective governance, one can see trouble coming Vilho’s way,” he said.

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