Zuma's lawyers jet in for Fishrot bail hearing

29 November 2019 | Justice

Two senior South African advocates, who until recently represented former president Jacob Zuma in his corruption case in the neighbouring country, are in Namibia to appear for former fisheries minister Bernhardt Esau and former justice minister Sacky Shanghala when they apply for bail, along with their co-accused, this morning.

Advocate Mike Hellens (SC) will represent Esau, while advocate Dawie Joubert (SC) will represent Shanghala. They are accused one and two in the Fishrot saga case involving an alleged N$150 million in bribes paid to Namibian politicians and officials by Icelandic seafood company Samherji for access to Namibia's fishing quota goldmine.

Accused three to six are James Hatuikulipi, the former board chairperson of state fishing enterprise Fishcor; Ricardo Gustavo, who together with Hatuikulipi held senior management positions at Investec Asset Management Namibia); Fitty (Tamson) Hatuikulipi, James' cousin and Esau's son-in-law; and Pius Mwatelulo.

The six suspects were taken from the Seeis police station cells to the Windhoek Magistrate's Court early yesterday morning, where they appeared shortly before 13:00.

They were led to the courtroom under heavy police guard in the corridor at the back of the magistrate's court.

Smartly dressed in suits, they were unshackled outside the court.

A large contingent of journalists huddled for their appearance, amid the growing scandal.

At one point, there was chaos in the corridors of the courthouse when and men and women were searched before being allowed inside.

The matter was postponed until this morning at 09:00 when a formal bail application will be lodged by all six suspects.

The Fishrot bomb exploded in foreign media on 12 November. It relates to the allocation of fish quotas to Namgomar Pesca (Namibia) Pty Ltd, as well as various other people and entities in Namibia, Cyprus, Iceland, Angola, Norway, Mauritius and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Jóhannes Stefánsson, an Icelandic fishing executive, says he facilitated N$150 million in bribes for Namibian politicians and officials.

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,” Stefánsson told international media.

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

Meanwhile, a Windhoek attorney told Namibian Sun yesterday that the daily fees of advocates of Hellens and Joubert's calibre amount to between N$60 000 and N$100 000.

If their bail application does not succeed in the magistrate's court and they appeal to the High Court, the legal costs of obtaining bail can amount to as much as N$3 million.

Hellens and Joubert represented Zuma until earlier this year in his legal battle with the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) over corruption charges dating back to South Africa's arms scandal in the 1990s.

According to the treasure trove of 30 000 documents released by WikiLeaks last week, Samherji allegedly paid bribes to Namibian politicians and officials for over six years. The documents include emails, internal reports, spreadsheets, presentations, and photos provided by Stefánsson. The company has been operating in Namibia for almost a decade, with a quota for horse mackerel.

It entered the Namibian market after it had failed to renew its quotas in Morocco and Mauritania in 2010.

The Anti-corruption Commission (ACC) said recently that it had strong evidence of conspiracy, bribery, corruption, fraud, money laundering and tax evasion, which prompted it to seek the arrest of the Namibian politicians and business persons linked to the Samherji kickback scandal.

Early this week, on the eve of Wednesday's general election, Swapo spokesperson Hilma Nicanor said at a media conference that Shanghala and Esau, as well as convicted felons Tobie Aupindi and Katrina Hanse-Himarwa, would remain on the party's parliamentary candidate list.

Esau and Shanghala are at number 33 and 53 on the party list respectively, and are likely to make it to the National Assembly.

Aupindi is at 29 and Hanse-Himarwa at 82.

Early results yesterday showed Swapo winning at least 54 of the 96 National Assembly seats, although this was based on only about 25% of the confirmed and collated votes.


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