By Sonja Smith
First published on The Namibian
Icelandic whistle-blower Jóhannes Stefánsson says both Namibian and Icelandic Fishrot accused are trying to jeopardise and delay the fishing rights bribery scheme cases by lying to the court. Stefánsson, the former director of operations in Namibia for Icelandic fishing company Samherji, told this to The Namibian this week.
This was in response to a request by Samherji executive Ingvar Júlíusson, in an affidavit submitted to the Windhoek High Court, in which he asks to be given permission to cross-examine Stefánsson and prosecutor general (PG) Martha Imalwa. Júlíusson, alongside fellow Icelanders Egill Helgi Árnason and Adalsteinn Helgason, were involved in six entities – Esja Holdings, Mermaria Seafood Namibia, Saga Seafood, Heinaste Investments (Namibia), Saga Investment and Esja Investments – as directors.
“I believe Samherji’s companies and people who are accused in the Fishrot case in Namibia are desperate and are trying all they can to damage the cases and get away with it through some delay tactics,” Stefánsson said. He believes the attack on him and Imalwa is deliberate, since the team working on the pending cases are on track with the matters, he said.
“It appears there is no limit to how far the accused would go in trying to get away with their crimes. While we still have a long road ahead, I believe they will continue to do whatever it takes to delay the case,” Stefánsson said.
He added: “I think the PG and other prosecutors on the case are working this well and correctly. I have full confidence in the investigators and prosecutors in Namibia and how they will work on this and do things.”
The whistle-blower slammed reports suggesting he would not be testifying in a trial in Namibia. “I will be coming to Namibia to testify in the Fishrot trial when it takes place. It has always been clear that they do not want me to testify. They will do anything to prevent me from testifying.”
He said he wants to see the accused pay for their crimes. “All the billions stolen by the sharks, Samherji and others has affected the country and its people. To see justice served for the Namibian people is all I want.”
While working at Samherji, Stefánsson says, he witnessed the extent of corruption at work in the Namibian fishing industry, and worked with anti-corruption authorities and the media to expose the scheme.
He does not fear their tactics, Stefánsson said. “I have gone through a lot since I left Samherji in July 2016. I have faced many challenges and risks, but have never stopped, and I will not stop to fight for justice for the Namibian people and see this case through until the end.”
Júlíusson claimed in his affidavit that Imalwa wants to attach companies’ assets without laying criminal charges first. He said Imalwa should demonstrate to the court that she seriously intends to prosecute the accused. “The PG does not explain how a ‘serious intention to oppose’ would persuade the court ‘that there are reasonable grounds for believing that a confiscation order may be against that person’, however, if the test is a serious intention, which I dispute, I deny that a prosecution is seriously intended.”
Imalwa refused to comment on the case when approached for comment. “I will only reply to such matters through the courts. It is not wise to do it through the media,” she said.
Imalwa has since given notice of opposing cross-examination.
THE MAIN ACCUSED
In one of the two Fishrot criminal cases pending in the High Court, former minister of justice Sacky Shanghala, James Hatuikulipi, Pius Mwatelulo, former minister of fisheries and marine resources Bernhard Esau, Tamson Hatuikulipi, Ricardo Gustavo, 11 corporate entities and trusts connected to them, as well as Nigel van Wyk are charged with racketeering, fraud, money laundering and other alleged crimes.
This is in connection with Icelandic-owned companies’ use of fishing quotas allocated to a Namibian company, Namgomar Pesca Namibia, under a supposed fisheries cooperation agreement between Namibia and Angola.
In a separate matter, Shanghala, Esau, James and Tamson Hatuikulipi, Mwatelulo, Mike Nghipunya, Otneel Shuudifonya, Phillipus Mwapopi and 11 corporate entities and trusts connected to them are also facing charges that include counts of fraud, racketeering and charges under the Anti-Corruption Act in connection with Icelandic-owned companies’ use of fishing quotas allocated to the state-owned National Fishing Corporation of Namibia (Fishcor).
The state is alleging that the accused in the Fishcor case diverted close to N$120-million, which was supposed to have been paid to Fishcor for the use of fishing quotas allocated to it, to themselves for their own use and benefit.
An application by the state for the two cases to be combined for a single trial is due to be heard in the High Court on 20 September, while a next pretrial hearing is scheduled to take place on 21 October.