Sacky, James to jet in today

The pair is among those being hotly pursued for allegedly being part of a looting syndicate that received hundreds of millions in bribes in exchange for handing over the nation's fishing resources to foreigners.

25 November 2019 | Crime

Former justice minister Sacky Shanghala and former Investec managing director James Hatuikulipi are expected to land in Windhoek today from Cape Town, where they have been for nearly two weeks following the mushrooming fallout of a fishing bribery storm.

Warrants of arrest have been issued for them, and they are expected to hand themselves over upon their arrival, if they are not arrested at the airport.

They had taken a sabbatical from the fishing quota bribery storm by travelling to Cape Town, where they allegedly own houses in leafy estates.

Their alleged cohorts in the scandal, former fisheries minister Bernhardt Esau and Hatuikulipi's former colleague at Investec, Ricardo Gustavo, were arrested Saturday

Esau's bid to exploit technicalities associated with his arrest, which he argued were invalid in law, succeeded yesterday during an urgent court application.

Namibian politicians and their cronies fell on their swords after an exposé - christened the Fishrot bribery scandal – that detailed how they allegedly formed part of a group that facilitated quotas for Icelandic company Samherji, which allegedly paid over N$150 million in kickbacks.

Some investigators put the kickback amount as high as N$2.5 billion.

Also fingered in the scandal is Esau's son-in-law Tamson 'Fitty' Hatuikulipi, a cousin of James. Fitty, who was believed to have been out of town last week, was also expected to hand himself over to the police late yesterday or today. It could not be confirmed whether Fishcor CEO Mike Nghipunya, whose name is also cited in the scandal, is also being targeted for arrest.

The Fishrot scandal is expected to influence this week's general election, with the ruling Swapo Party particularly worried that the debacle may bite a chunk off its support base.

This is partially because of reports that both President Hage Geingob and the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) have known about this matter for some time, but neither acted decisively while the looting continued.

The late scramble to act, leading to resignations a fortnight ago, is seen as an attempt to “save face”, after the alleged kickback scandal was exposed recently by international media and reproduced locally.

Officials close to Shanghala and James confirmed over the weekend that the pair is scheduled to land in the capital today.

“They had in fact planned to return on Sunday but they could not secure flights. They don't see themselves as fugitives and are prepared to subject themselves to police investigations,” a source told Namibian Sun.

Police chief Sebastian Ndeitunga told Namibian Sun on Saturday that the arrests of Esau and Gustavo were necessitated by information obtained so far.

Asked whether more arrests were on the cards, Ndeitunga said: “Leave that to us.”

He added: “We need to restore confidence in the system. This is us doing the job for which we get paid.”

Ndeitunga hastened to say that those arrested and their wanted alleged cohorts are presumed innocent until they are proven guilty by a competent court of law.

“Their arrests do not suggest they are guilty of anything, but they have to prove their innocence through the justice system,” he added.

The scandal is anchored in allegations that Icelandic food giant Samherji paid handsome kickbacks to Namibian politicians and businesspersons, in exchange for the preferential allocation of fishing quotas.

Esau is said to have facilitated the process by amending the country's laws to validate his treatment of the Icelandic company. He went on to appoint James as board chairperson of state-owned fishing company Fishcor, which shed some of its allocated quotas to Samherji.

James is a cousin of Fitty, whom Samherji appointed as its Namibian 'consultant' that facilitated ties between Samherji and Fishcor.



Prima facie evidence

The ACC in a statement on Saturday said it has established enough evidence warranting the prosecution of the suspects and those wanted for arrest.

“The investigation thus far has prima facie proven that conspiracy, bribery, corruption, fraud, money laundering and tax evasion were committed,” it said.

“The cumulative evidence, either real or circumstantial, testifies to an apparent well-calculated strategy meant to legalise a corruption scheme. The ACC's investigations reveal that companies owned by some of the suspects or proxies were used as conduit to facilitate payments of millions of dollars into other bank accounts of companies linked to the suspects.

“Money was ultimately paid into the personal bank accounts of some suspects. In some instances businesspersons' bank accounts were used to disguise the ill-gotten money, buy a property and shortly register the same property in the name of the 'real beneficiary', disguising who sold the property to him,” the ACC said.

“The commission has identified movable and immovable assets which are reasonably suspected to be linked to proceeds of crimes. The evidence in this regard has been shared with the Office of the Prosecutor-General to consider initiating civil proceedings against such assets in terms of Prevention of Organised Crime Act (POCA). Evidence to date gathered justifies the ACC's decision to bring all implicated suspects to justice and answer to the allegations.”

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