'Swapo campaign benefitted from Fishrot'

The foul stench of Swapo benefitting from the Fishrot bribery scandal resurfaced in the Windhoek Magistrate's Court yesterday.

09 July 2020 | Crime

JEMIMA BEUKES

WINDHOEK



A State witness in the ongoing bail application of former fisheries minister Bernhardt Esau and his son-in-law Tamson Hatuikulipi dropped a bombshell yesterday when he said investigations have shown that Fishrot money bankrolled a Swapo campaign.

Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) senior investigator Willem Olivier did not elaborate on which campaign of the ruling party benefitted from the bribery scandal.

According to Olivier, N$15 million and N$2.5 million were paid into local lawyer Sisa Namandje's trust account under the reference “governmental objectives”.

“This was flagged as suspicious. Part of this money was used for vehicles, personal loans and other items. And as far as investigations found, monies were used for the Swapo campaign,” he said.

Swapo has previously accused the media of untruthfully linking the party to Fishrot, and dared those making such accusations to report the party to the ACC.





Extensive conspiring

Meanwhile, the ACC is adamant that the Fishrot accused, including Esau and Hatuikulipi, conspired 'extensively' to defraud Namibia by using a bilateral agreement meant to uplift the lives of Namibians.

Olivier, during his evidence before the Windhoek Magistrate's Court yesterday, was referring to a bilateral fishing agreement with Angola that was used to dish out Namibian fishing quotas to Icelandic seafood giant Samherji, which in turn allegedly paid hundreds of millions in bribes to the Fishrot accused.

According to Olivier, the ACC investigation so far shows that massive fraudulent activities took place under the guise of “governmental objectives”, with entities including JTH Trading and Erongo Clearing, both belonging to Hatuikulipi, being used to distribute monies to the Fishrot beneficiaries.

Olivier also said Fishrot led to massive pain for Namibia's citizens, including the suicides of fishermen who had lost their jobs due to the scandal.

According to him, Fishcor lost N$75 million meant to support drought relief, feeding schemes and offer cheaper fish to Namibians.

In light of this, he asked that the court refuse bail to Hatuikulipi and Esau, saying they are not only flight risks but have already started interfering with the investigation, despite being incarcerated.



US$63m 'parked' in Kazakhstan bank account

Oliver told the court that there is currently an amount of US$63 million parked in a bank account in Kazakhstan, which the ACC is investigating to see how it is linked to the Fishrot accused.

Fishrot-linked lawyer Maren de Klerk is the only one who has legal access to this account.

According to Olivier, Esau has also in the meantime attempted to sell off more than 300 cattle between April and June, but the ACC thwarted the attempt.

He also testified that they recovered former Fishcor board chairperson James Hatuikulipi's cellphone after his arrest and established that he made contact with Samherji “to cover his tracks”, asking them to say these payments were made to Angola and not Tundavala Investment, owned by him.



Contractors paid in cash

During evidence on Monday it was revealed that Namgomar Pescar Namibia and Samherji had agreed to a N$500 per metric tonne usage fee, of which 25% would be paid to Namgomar in Namibia and the remaining 75% to Tundavala, an entity registered in Dubai.

He added that Esau had a very humble house on his farm and later made huge adjustments and paid all his contractors in cash, with one contractor saying he was paid N$600 000.

“The ACC also found that Esau's wife bought all the building materials from local shops and she just used cash,” Olivier said.



Bilateral corruption

According to Olivier, it was extremely difficult to enter the Namibian fishing sector before 2014 given the stipulations of the Marine Resources Act, and this prompted Esau and his co-accused to instead enter into a bilateral agreement with Angola to get easier access to the sector.

He added that the existing usage agreements did not give easy access to those involved because “too many players were in the game”, and their plan - the bilateral agreement - was set in motion.

Olivier continued that draft documents confiscated from former justice minister Sacky Shanghala's house showed that the Fishrot accused, by means of James' company Hanganeni, tried to penetrate Namsov in order to access fishing rights.

The idea, Olivier said, would be that Namsov would continue operating its existing fishing quota, but once Hanganeni came into the picture, the quota would be increased.

However, this attempt failed.



Changing course

According to Olivier, on 11 September 2012, Shanghala, then Law Reform and Development Commission (LRDC) chair, wrote a letter to himself, on behalf of Esau, who signed the letter titled “Urgent Regulatory Reform: Marine Resources Act - 2000”.

Documents show that Shanghala responded the next day, saying: “The LRDC is more than glad to assist the ministry of fisheries. It is my understanding the minister would like to bring into law some regulations to catch limitations measures, so as to arrive at more equitable participation of holders of rights to commercially harvest marine resources in the fisheries and marine sector of Namibia”.

Shanghala continued: “These questions can be answered. We will include our responses to such a report, which we will hand over to the justice minister, as well as you, which may include a draft version of the regulations we may find relevant for your purpose.”



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