Samherji ran spy syndicate

Cindy Van Wyk
MATHIAS HAUFIKU



WINDHOEK

Icelandic fishing giant Samherji Group ran a spying syndicate on one of its former bosses, Johannes Stefansson, to get insight into the status of operations in Namibia.

The company has continued to deny allegations that it was party to the Fishrot scandal, which saw over N$150 million in alleged bribes paid to politicians and their cronies.

The spy ring is contained in an affidavit filed with the High Court on Monday written by Jon Ottar Olafsson, who claims he was recruited by Samherji allegedly to gather information from Stefansson and feed it to the Icelandic bosses.

Stefansson became a target at the corruption-accused multinational seafood giant after he blew the whistle on alleged rampant corruption by releasing a trove of over 30 000 internal documents to Wikileaks.

Samherji claims the information released to Samherji was “cherry-picked”.

“I was surprised when I found out that out of almost 200 000 emails that Mr Stefansson sent or received between 2008 and 2016, only 19 497 emails are on Wikileaks,” Olafsson said.

A private investigator of the Icelandic fisheries company, Olafsson details in his affidavit how he was tasked in 2016 to travel to Namibia “to investigate what was really going on and report back to them regarding issues such as financials, staff and other operational matters”.

Dodging calls

Coming to Namibia under the pretence of being Stefansson’s operational assistant, he said the trip was necessitated because “the management team in Iceland had very little insight into the operations and status in Namibia and often had great difficulties reaching Stefannson”.

Stefansson allegedly always made excuses and ignored emails and phone calls from his superiors in Iceland.

Olafsson said Samherji wanted to fire Stefansson in 2016 and replace him with other expatriates in Namibia. Such plans, Olafsson said, were halted as “that turned out not to be feasible”.

“The reason was that no one in the group, apart from Mr Stefansson, had an overview of or insight into the operations in Namibia or contact to vendors and business partners,” he said.

Stefansson was allegedly the only contact between Samherji and its Namibian partners.

Olafsson detailed how he had kept trying to become Stefansson’s friend on several occasions in order to win his trust “to gather as much information as was possible”.

“I started talking to Mr Stefansson about the work in Namibia and hinted that I was not happy about being sent there. That I wanted to stay in Iceland.”

He also said Stefansson’s plan to was do business in South Africa.

“He proudly told me that he had already established political contacts there that would lead the group to getting a lot of quota in the coming years, all the way up to the minister of agriculture and fisheries. This came as a surprise to me as neither Mr [Aðalsteinn] Helgason, nor Ms [Arna] McClure had mentioned to me that the focus of the operation was moving from Namibia to South Africa,” he narrated.

Behind closed doors

Olafsson would update the bosses in Iceland on the progress made as far as obtaining information from Stefansson is concerned.

He said Stefansson did not want him to meet Fishrot-accused persons such as James Hatuikulipi, Tamson Hatuikulipi and Sacky Shanghala.

“From the onset, it was clear that Mr Stefansson did not want me to meet with them by myself or sit in meetings with them. Every meeting began with Mr Stefansson speaking to them behind closed doors and then he came out to call me in. I noticed that Mr Stefansson communicated with them extensively via WhatsApp and kept 100% control over the relationship with those men,” Olafsson said.

He added that Stefansson owned a company called Karee Investments One Two Three which operated fish shops owned by Samherji. The Samherji bosses in Iceland allegedly had no knowledge about the existence of these fish shops in Oshikango.

“The company operating the fish shops and the trading company, Karee, was not owned by the group as Mr Stefansson had told me but instead it was owned by himself. Nevertheless, the group financed the operations as it was believed to be a group company,” he revealed.

Olafsson alleged in the affidavit that in November 2016, months after Stefansson was fired, he [Stefansson] transferred N$200 000 from Karee to his personal bank account meant to pay salaries and other operational expenses.

Betrayal

Stefansson on several occasions alleged that Samherji’s way of doing business was simply through bribes.

Olafsson, however, said Stefansson did all the negotiations and not the group.

Stefansson was allegedly unhappy working for Samherji because “he was owed a lot of money in bonuses for all the quotas he had brought to the operation in Namibia”.

Olafsson also said he was the one who informed the management at Samherji’s headquarters in Iceland that Stefannson was planning to quit.

“He was going to stay with the group for a few more months and then betray them and start cooperating in Africa with another seafood company from Iceland. He told me that the minister of fisheries in Namibia had been told and apparently approved this plan.

“The quotas would be taken from the group, according to Mr Stefansson,” Olafsson said.

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Namibian Sun 2022-11-27

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