Sacky asks AG to settle Fishrot legal bill

The former attorney-general, who is in jail awaiting trial, has pushed his legal bill towards the state on the basis that he was acting in his official capacity.

28 January 2021 | Justice

JEMIMA BEUKES and MATHIAS HAUFIKU







WINDHOEK

Government is assessing a request by former justice minister Sacky Shanghala for the Office of the Attorney-General to either provide legal representation or pay his legal fees in the ongoing Fishrot bribery case.

Shanghala has been in jail since November 2019 and his assets, including his bank accounts, have been frozen as part of an investigation into allegations that he and his cohorts facilitated and accepted bribes worth millions of dollars in exchange for fishing quotas.

Apart from allegedly accepting bribes, he is said to have worked with former fisheries minister Bernhardt Esau to change the country’s fishing law – which was enacted in 2015 to give the minister the sole mandate to dish out fishing quotas as he deemed fit.

Shanghala was the country’s attorney-general when the law was pushed through, after it was sold as the panacea to the country’s scramble for marine resources.

With Esau empowered through the ill-intended law, he allegedly dished out fishing quotas and millions of dollars ended up in the accounts of companies linked to Shanghala and others arrested in what is now considered to be the biggest corruption scandal in Namibian history.

No position taken yet

The Bank of Namibia last year said it has assessed Fishrot-related transactions worth a massive N$10 billion.

Namibian Sun understands that Shanghala’s request to have his legal bill settled by the state – which he made in December 2020 through his lawyer Appolos Shimakeleni - is based on an argument that the allegations levelled against him emanated from his official capacities as a senior government employee.

Chief legal advisor in the office of the attorney general, Chris Nghaamwa, yesterday confirmed that Shanghala has written to his office asking for the state to foot his legal costs.

“We wish to inform you that the request was made to provide legal representation or alternatively to pay his legal fees,” he told Namibian Sun yesterday upon inquiry.

“We wish to further inform you that no position has been taken on the matter and no legal opinion has been rendered yet,” he added.

Namibian Sun understands Attorney General Festus Mbandeka is studying the request and that a legal opinion is being considered on whether to grant Shanghala’s request.

Bail application pending

Shanghala was arrested alongside Esau, James and Tamson Hatuikulipi, Ricardo Gustavo and Pius Mwatelulo following reports that Icelandic fishing firm Samherji reportedly secured access to horse mackerel quotas in Namibia by paying bribes of around N$150 million to politicians and businessmen between 2012 and 2018, according to the Fishrot Files of Wikileaks.

Of the six accused persons, only James Hatuikulipi, Shanghala and Mwatelulo are yet to apply for bail.

Esau and his son-in-law, Tamson Hatuikulipi, are still fighting to be granted bail in the High Court, after the first attempt was dismissed in the Magistrate’s Court.

Esau offered his entire wealth of N$23 million as surety for his bail, in addition to N$50 000 in cash, while Tamson Hatuikulipi offered N$16 million worth of unbonded immovable properties.

Uphill battle

A legal source who spoke to Namibian Sun said while attorney-generals perform work and represent the legal interests of government, they cannot expect protection if they are charged in their personal capacities.

“While this function may extend to providing legal services to public officials in their official capacity, the state is not legally obliged to provide legal services to public officials who sue or are being sued or prosecuted in their personal capacities,” the source said.

Constitutional expert Nico Horn said this has been done before, but Shanghala must explain exactly what he has done and how this furthered governmental objectives.

Even if Shanghala suggests that he wanted to set a trap for Fishrot players, his direct superiors should have been notified, Horn said.

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