The birth of Namgomar

A trove of email communication acquired by Namibian Sun has lifted the lid on how former justice minister Sacky Shanghala and his co-accused used their positions in government mastermind the Fishrot scheme.

18 January 2021 | Crime

OGONE TLHAGE







WINDHOEK

For years, former justice minister Sacky Shanghala and his inner circle wove a complex multimillion-dollar fishing scheme which - on paper - was supposed to benefit the Namibian and Angolan governments.

The scheme involved the signing of a bilateral agreement between the two countries and subsequent awarding of fishing quotas from the Namibian government to the Angolan government.

Companies were formed and over N$103 million was pocketed by individuals instead of that money reaching the intended beneficiaries.

A Namibian Sun investigation has confirmed what many have long suspected: The Fishrot crew held meetings and conspired in companies that made millions.

These deals’ true beneficiaries were hidden from both the Namibian and Angolan governments.

New evidence

Recently-discovered email conversations provide new evidence on how Shanghala used his position in government to get the ball rolling, including travelling to Angola to clinch fishing deals with that country’s government.

The emails narrate how a systematic heist played out from the start to sideline the two governments by forming a company called Namgomar Pesca, which would act as the vehicle to execute the plan.

It all started on 16 January 2014 when Shanghala, James and Tamson Hatuikulipi, Ricardo Gustavo, Johannes Stefansson and Sigudar ‘Siggi’ Olason travelled to Angola for a week to present a fishing proposal to that government that would change their lives forever.

Stefansson and Olason were representing Samherji.

They met Angola's former fisheries minister, Victória de Barros Neto, and her son Joao who are alleged to be Namgomar players on the Angolan side.

Shanghala delivered a presentation on how Namgomar would operate and the role the Angolan government was expected to play.

The Angolan fisheries minister, Dr Fransisco Antonio Santos from Fadepa - a fund used to support the development of fishing - and other government officials were in attendance.

It is still unclear why then fisheries minister Bernhardt Esau or any senior official from the fisheries ministry - or government for that matter - were not part of this meeting. Shanghala was the Law Reform and Development Commission’s head at the time.

‘Outdated technology’

The Angolan government made it clear during the meeting that it wanted Namgomar to be a vertically integrated company, similar to how Samherji operates in Iceland.

Barros Neto told the Namibian delegation that “Angola’s fishing sector needs development and our technology is outdated”.

She said a political result was important for both countries and assured the Namibian group that she would “put a good note to the programme”.

“We can go beyond Namgomar,” she said.

“We need improvement in technology because ours is outdated. We are ready to work with international companies in equity-based projects to improve the fishing sector.”

After the trip, the Namibian group returned home and set the wheels in motion to register Namgomar locally.

Gustavo was tasked to take care of the registration of the Angolan entity while the others took care of the Namibian side of things.

Gustavo informed the rest of the group that the plan would need to be finalised speedily.

“The business plan for Namgomar needs to be completed and submitted as soon as possible. Can we discuss and agree how we shall move forward in this case?” he wrote.

In an email sent to James Hatuikulipi, Stefansson proposed that two business plans would be required for the operation of vessels in Angola and Namibia.

James Hatuikulipi responded saying the plan would have to be implemented in various phases.

“In terms of the Namgomar business plan, we need to run this in phases. The initial phase is the sea operations, which you need to drive. We need to make some assumptions on the quotas for both Namibia and Angola.

“The second phase will entail operations in Angola to distribute fish in terms of cold storage and other facilities,” he said.

Providing advice on how to move forward with Namgomar’s business plan to entice Angolan authorities, Stefansson said the proposal would have to make provision for a vessel to be owned by a company not registered in Angola.

“We will have a sea frozen vessel which will be owned by a company outside of Angola and will probably work on a catching agreement,” he wrote.

‘Sharks’ amongst men

Gustavo also informed the ‘Sharks’ – as Stefansson refers to them - that Joao, the son of former Angolan fisheries minister, had been asked to assist with the registration of Namgomar through the Angolan National Private Investment Agency (ANIP).

To jumpstart the formation of Namgomar, Gustavo told his fellow Sharks that lawyers based in Luanda, Angola, had informed him that US$1 million would need to be set aside as part of ANIP’s scrutiny processes.

“There is a need for a comprehensive business plan including actual quota commitments to be submitted as part of the application process. The lawyers are committed to assisting us navigate the ANIP process at a fee of US$35 000 (about N$590 000),” he said.

He encouraged following the advice of the lawyers as they had been recommended by Joao.

The email trail shows that all important decisions were discussed with James Hatuikulipi for input and approval purposes.

Namgomar Pesca (Pty) Ltd was finally registered in Namibia on 7 April 2014.

The bilateral agreement between Namibia and Angola was signed on 18 June 2014 and on 1 July 2014, Namgomar Pesca Namibia was subsequently awarded a 7 000-tonne horse mackerel fishing quota.

Shady deals

While testifying during Esau’s bail application last year, Anti-Corruption Commission senior investigator Willem Olivier testified that Esau signed off on fishing quotas to Nengomar Pescar SA, which investigations revealed was non-existent.

“In actuality, these quotas that were awarded to Nengomar Pescar SA were instead received by Namgomar Pesca (Pty) Ltd in Namibia,” Olivier said.

ACC said Samherji conspired with the accused under the guise of the bilateral agreement in order to benefit themselves.

The company later granted the rights to Esja Holdings, a subsidiary of Samherji, to catch its horse mackerel quota, entering into a 10-year agreement.

A 2014 catching agreement entered into between Namgomar and Esja Holdings shows that Namgomar was being paid a quota usage fee as low as N$500 per ton of horse mackerel caught.

Namibian Sun reported last week that Esja Fishing had paid N$29 million to Tamson Hatuikulipi’s Erongo Forwarding and Clearing Agency a few years back.

Shanghala, Esau, Gustavo and the Hatuikulipis are trial-awaiting prisoners facing corruption charges.

De Barros, her son Joao and her husband have also been charged for their involvement in the scandal, while their assets have been frozen by Angolan authorities.

The Namgomar case was postponed to 5 February for the PG’s decision.

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