Samherji apologises for Fishrot corruption

23 June 2021 | Fishing

STAFF REPORTER

WINDHOEK

Icelandic seafood giant Samherji yesterday tendered an apology for the company’s role in the multimillion-dollar fishing scandal, dubbed Fishrot, but it maintains that no criminal offences were committed in Namibia by companies on its behalf or its employees.

The apology was issued on the company’s website yesterday in a document titled ‘Statement and apology from Samherji’.

Samherji said it sought to explain its views in the “so-called Namibia case” and, at the same time, present some of the main findings of an investigation by the Norwegian law firm Wikborg Rein.

“As Samherji's top executive, I am responsible for allowing the business practices in Namibia to take place. It has upset our staff, friends, families, business partners, customers and others in our community. I am very sorry that this happened, and I sincerely apologise to all those involved, both personally and on behalf of the company,” said Thorsteinn Már Baldvinsson, CEO of Samherji.

“Now it's important to ensure that nothing like this happens again. We will certainly strive for that.”

The company said its former managing director in Namibia, Johannes Stefansson, was the one responsible for the questionable business conduct in Namibia.

Samherji has been accused of paying lucrative bribes in exchange for fish quotas.

Blame the whistleblower

At the centre of the storm is Stefansson, who blew the lid on the scandal, former justice minister Sacky Shanghala, former fisheries minister Bernhardt Esau, former Investec MD James Hatuikulipi, Investec business manager Ricardo Gustavo, businessman Tamson Hatuikulipi, Hanganeni employee Pius Mwatelulo and former Fishcor CEO Mike Nghipuya among others. Stefansson is expected to testify in the trial involving the so-called Fishrot accused.

“Samherji firmly rejects the allegations of bribery but accepts the criticism that in the circumstances, it was necessary to pay more attention to how payments were made, who they were made to and on what basis, who had the authority to give instructions about them and where they should be received. It is also clear that the underlying agreements behind the payments should have been precise and formal,” reads the statement.

Samherji's representatives submitted their legal arguments in the Fishrot case in which they sought to clear the company’s name.

Shanghala, Esau, James and Tamson Hatuikulipi, Nghipunya, Mwatelulo, Otneel Shuudifonya, Phillipus Mwapopi and 11 corporate entities and trusts connected to them are also facing charges that include counts of fraud, racketeering and charges under the Anti-Corruption Act in connection with Icelandic-owned companies' use of fishing quotas allocated to Fishcor.

The state is alleging that the accused in the Fishcor case diverted close to N$150 million supposed to have been paid to Fishcor for the use of fishing quotas allocated to it to themselves for their own use and benefit.

Shortcomings

The investigation by Wikborg Rein revealed aspects that raised business integrity and legal risks that had not been sufficiently mitigated in the operations of companies affiliated with Samherji in Namibia.

“Samherji also notes that the values and responsibility that Samherji's management has always been guided by, both in this country and abroad, were not adhered to. In this light, extensive work was done within Samherji to establish a comprehensive corporate governance and compliance system based on international best practices, to prevent mistakes of this nature from being repeated,” he said.

According to Samherji, the report found that hiring consultants and allowing the involvement of senior members of Namibia's government in their advice raised business integrity and risks that were not sufficiently mitigated by companies affiliated with Samherji.

“Although the investigation has revealed that Namibian consultants did provide undisputed and genuine advice over the years, they received payments without clear explanations and supporting documents for the services provided,” the statement reads.

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