They are 'not special'

The police chief yesterday said the six men arrested for alleged fishing quota bribery must prove their innocence in court, as the police would not extend special treatment to them.

28 November 2019 | Crime

Police chief Sebastian Ndeitunga says the six men arrested yesterday in connection with the Fishrot bribery saga – including two former cabinet ministers who resigned a fortnight ago – will not be treated with kid gloves because of their status in society.

However, Ndeitunga also hastened to say that the police would not be pressured into victimising the suspects just to impress the public.

Former justice minister Sacky Shanghala and Investec Asset Management ex-managing director James Hatuikulipi were arrested at a farm yesterday, having arrived in the country on Tuesday.

They had previously promised to surrender to the police if arrest warrants were issued for them.

The two had been in Cape Town for nearly two weeks after resigning amidst a storm of allegations that they formed part of a syndicate that had accepted bribes in excess of N$150 million in return for allocating fishing quotas to Icelandic company Samherji.

Former fisheries minister Bernhardt Esau was also re-arrested yesterday. He had been released from police custody on Sunday following an urgent court application in which he challenged the technical aspects of his arrest.

Esau's son-in-law Tamson Fitty Hatuikulipi a cousin of James Hatuikulipi's – was also arrested yesterday.

Two other men, Ricardo Gustavo and Pius Mwatelulo, were also arrested.

Gustavo is a former colleague of James Hatuikulipi at Investec, where he is currently on suspension, while Mwatelulo is James's cousin.

Mwatelulo worked for Hanganeni Investment Holdings, a company owned by Shanghala, among others.

“We have arrested all six of them,” Ndeitunga confirmed yesterday.

Following Esau's release on Sunday, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) was criticised for botching the arrests after it was concluded that they were not executed in line with the law.

Namibian Sun understands that a high-level meeting took place yesterday between representatives of the ACC, the police and the prosecutor-general's office to ensure the arrests were legally watertight this time.

“Law is a technical field and we didn't want to repeat the way the first arrests were made,” Ndeitunga commented yesterday.

The six men must now prove that they were not party to briberies received in exchange for allocating quotas to Samherji, which itself faces growing pressure in its home country.

It is alleged that Namibian laws were amended to allow Esau to strip fishing quotas from many private fishing companies in Namibia and hand them over to state-owned Fishcor under the guise of 'Namibianising' the fishing sector.

But soon after that, Fishcor passed some of its allocated quotas to a foreign company, Samherji, at a discounted price.

This happened while James Hatuikulipi was chairperson of Fishcor, a position to which he was appointed by Esau.

Fitty Hatuikulipi was then appointed as a 'local consultant' to Samherji, helping to facilitate business between the company and Fishcor.

ACC said last weekend that it had gathered enough evidence pointing to looting of national resources by the suspects.

Commenting on the arrests yesterday, Ndeitunga said: “We went back to the drawing board to ensure the arrests can no longer be challenged in court.

“These allegations are very serious. It's not a case of common assault or something at that level, that's why we are putting them in custody. If these were simple allegations, we could have just opened a case and let them go home but these are serious allegations so our actions have to match that.

“They can apply for bail and the courts will decide.”

The bank accounts of some of the suspects have been frozen with the help of the Financial Intelligence Centre, an arm of the Bank of Namibia.


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