Russian company dumps Heinaste

12 February 2020 | Fishing

Samherji's plans to sell the Heinaste fishing vessel to a Russian-linked company fell through following the vessel's seizure by the Namibian police last week.

The vessel was due to leave Namibian territorial waters last Friday for South Korea but was impounded by the police following the conclusion of a court trial that found the vessel was caught fishing in restricted waters.

Its captain, Icelandic national Arngrímur Brynjólfsson, was last week found guilty of fishing in a protected zone and fined N$900 000 or 12 years' imprisonment.

“Previously, the owners of the [Heinaste] vessel had entered into an agreement with Russian buyers to sell the vessel to them. The vessel was due to be delivered in South Korea. The Russian buyers decided that they did not wish to go through with the sale following her initial detention. The owners have accepted this and sale is cancelled,” Samherji spokesperson Margrét Ólafsdóttir said.

Heinaste's owners said they were now looking to charter the vessel to locals following job losses.

Samherji CEO Björgólfur Jóhannsson also questioned why the vessel was seized despite the conclusion of the magistrate court case.

“Samherji is concerned that the Namibian Police deliberately ignored the court order and refused to return the ship's papers to the owner, as the court ordered it to do,” said Jóhannsson.

The company indicated that it would challenge the vessel's seizure.

“Only a convicted person can have their assets seized under Namibian law. The owner of the Heinaste has not been charged, let alone convicted, of any offence. Previously, the group had stated it was pleased that a case concerning Heinaste and its captain was finally resolved in the Magistrate's Court of Walvis Bay,” said Jóhannsson.





“Although the State applied for the forfeiture of the vessel, the court refused to grant a forfeiture order, finding that it was not proven that the owner of the vessel, Heinaste Investments, in which Samherji indirectly holds a controlling interest, did not take all reasonable steps to prevent the vessel from being used illegally. The presiding magistrate thus ordered the State to return the vessel's papers to the owner,” Jóhannsson added.



Police spokesperson Deputy Commissioner Kauna Shikwambi was contacted last week about the seizure of the Heinaste, while another query was sent regarding the claims by Samherji's CEO. Both queries went unanswered at the time of going to print.



Samherji has started the process of divesting from Namibia while the Anti-Corruption Commission is trying to have its assets attached for its involvement in a corruption scandal that has rocked the nation.



The company is alleged to have paid bribes for lucrative fishing quotas. The scandal has cost former fisheries minister Bernhardt Esau, former justice minister Sakeus Shanghala and former Investec MD James Hatuikulipi their jobs. The three are currently under arrest along with Esau's son-in-law Tamson Hatuikulipi, suspended Investec manager Ricardo Gustavo and Hanganeni employee Pius Mwatelulo. A formal bail hearing is scheduled for 20 February in the Windhoek Magistrate's Court.

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OGONE TLHAGE

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