Samherji begs for release of seized vessel
14 August 2020 | Fishing
Icelandic firm Samherji, which is at the centre of the Fishrot bribery scandal, has asked Namibian authorities to release its fishing vessel Heinaste, which the police seized in February.
The Namibian police impounded the controversial horse-mackerel trawler early this year as investigations into Fishrot intensified.
It was sold to a Russian company last year and was about to sail away from Namibian waters en route to its new owners. It is not clear whether Samherji has refunded the Russians in the meantime.
Samherji told Namibian Sun that the vessel remains in the hands of the Namibian authorities.
“Samherji has engaged the Anti-Corruption Commission, the Office of the Prosecutor-General and the Office of the Attorney-General in an effort to allow the vessel to be sold and put back to work while Samherji and its JV partners work out with the authorities if the vessel's seizure was lawful,” the company said.
“The proceeds of any sale would be held in Namibia pending resolution of these issues.”
The former head of the Namibian police's criminal investigation directorate, Nelius Becker, had previously confirmed that the vessel's seizure was done in terms of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act because it had been linked to the Fishrot bribery case.
Providing an update on the vessel's status, police spokesperson Kauna Shikwambi said the vessel was still in the custody of the police.
Samherji had protested against the vessel's seizure and said it was making attempts to get it back.
“As far as Heinaste is concerned, Samherji is on record as saying it is greatly concerned that such a valuable asset is tied up alongside and is not at work creating jobs for Namibian fishermen,” it said.
The Heinaste was impounded in December 2019 after it was caught fishing in a restricted zone area near Walvis Bay.
The two captains, Icelander Angrimu Kristinn Brynjolfson (67) and Russian national Fetisov Iurii (58), were arrested and each paid N$100 000 bail.
Brynjolfsen was fined N$950 000 or 12 years in prison by the Walvis Bay Magistrate's Court.
Samherji's former CEO, Björgólfur Jóhannsson, previously 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.