Whistleblower spills more beans

An Icelandic fishing executive says he went public in the hope that Namibians would in future benefit from their country's resources, instead of a western country and a few corrupt men who watch their people suffer.

19 November 2019 | Fishing

Jóhannes Stefánsson, the Icelandic fishing executive who says he facilitated N$150 million in bribes for Namibian politicians and officials in exchange for gaining access to a quota “gold mine”, says he blew the whistle because he could not understand how the people involved “could sleep at night”.

He has also implicated the ruling party Swapo and the Namibia Fish Consumption Promotion Trust (NFCPT).

Swapo executive director Austin Samupwa said yesterday he was not aware of these allegations.

“We don't even know those people,” he said.

Former cabinet ministers Sacky Shanghala and Bernhardt Esau resigned last week as the fallout from the scandal intensified.

According to international reports, politicians and officials in Namibia who allegedly took bribes from Samherji, for which Stefánsson was the representative in Namibia, include former fisheries minister Esau; Tamson 'Fitty' Hatuikulipi, who worked as consultant for Samherji and is Esau's son-in-law; James Hatuikulipi, the chairman of state-owned Fishcor; and former justice minister Shanghala. The fifth individual implicated is Mike Nghipunya, the CEO of Fishcor.

Stefánsson, speaking in an interview, further fingered the NFCPT and Swapo as the beneficiaries of illegal “facilitation fees”.

He said it was because of his “conscience” that he came forward.

Stefánsson told Icelandic news media outlet Kveikur that the corruption in which he was involved was giving him “heartache” and prompted him to blow the whistle.

“I am not saint. But I wouldn't betray people, a whole nation, to this extent,” he said.

He said he hoped that Namibians would in future benefit from their country's resources, instead of a western country and a few corrupt men who watch their people suffer.

Stefánsson came to Namibia in 2011 to get close to politicians involved in the fisheries sector.

“This is criminal activity. It's organised crime. They are benefiting from the country's resources, taking all the money out of the country to invest it elsewhere, in Europe or the United States,” he said.

He said he initially thought they were going to create a big onshore fish project in Namibia that would create jobs.

“This was just said to deceive people. And as time went by I have realised the kind of corruption I was involved in. A western state was robbing their resources in collusion with corrupt parties in that country… 40% of the people are living in huts, a million people have limited access to water.

“Access to education is becoming a problem. There is 44% unemployment among the young people. I must ask myself: I don't understand how these people can sleep at night,” Stefánsson said.

He also admitted to having violated the law on behalf of Samherji while he was in Namibia.

“I was the man to get the quotas and the connections, on my superiors' orders.”

“Bribery was no obstruction to Samherji,” Stefansson added.

Asked how much the 'quota fee' paid to Swapo was, Stefánsson replied: “We considered it a goodwill payment. Yes, bribery, facilitation is illegal.”

According to Stefánsson they at one point paid a quota facilitation fee to the NFCPT to make sure they got the fishing quota.

“And we paid up,” he said.

According to him, the 2011/12 horse-mackerel quotas in Namibia were very much in demand and equivalent to a gold mine.

According to Stefánsson, the first bribe to Esau was at the request of the minister's son-in-law (Fitty), who said Esau had done a lot to get Samherji into the Namibian fisheries industry and suggested a sum of US$60 000.

“I made sure he got the US$60 000. I bought a bag when I had asked the bank to prepare cash. I went to the hotel and alerted the son-in-law and gave him the bag,” he said.

According to Stefánsson, some of these transactions were disguised as consultation fees or even rental agreements on the company's books.

NFCPT CEO Victor Pea said they cannot comment on the matter because most of them joined the trust after 2011 and 2012.

“I saw that video clip. It is so vague. It doesn't say who. I think the best thing to do is to call the ministry. I highly doubt that is anyone of us here; most of us only came here after 2012,” he said.

Up to Kawana

Fisheries executive director Moses Maurihungirire said yesterday it was up to acting minister Albert Kawana to decide on the allocation of fishing rights.

Maurihungirire was asked whether his ministry would be forced to go back to the table and restart the entire process of allocating fishing rights, or continue with the allocation process as is.

The ministry announced last year that it had received over 5 000 applications for fishing rights.

“It is in the ambit of the [acting] minister,” Maurihungirire said.

Kawana reiterated his stance that Shanghala and Esau had not been found guilty.

“We have procedures in terms of institutions which we have to follow. We cannot do this thing on emotions but according to the law of the land.

“We are a democratic country with a constitution that needs to be respected, particularly on issues that affect human rights. You know human rights issues are part of Chapter 3, which is a protected chapter of our constitution.

“So for me it is difficult to say whether I will comply or not comply. But I am here to apply the laws of our land. The law will take its course; those that are guilty will be guilty and those that are not guilty will not be guilty,” Kawana said yesterday.

“What I can assure the nation on is that everything will be done according to the letter and spirit of the laws of our republic. After that people will be informed of the decision. Some of these decisions are not taken only by the attorney-general or the acting minister of fisheries, but by various institutions.”

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