Windhoek — The formal appearance in court yesterday of the six accused in the high-profile bribery case implicating former cabinet ministers Bernhard Esau and Sacky Shanghala generated massive public interest.
Their brief appearance before Windhoek magistrate Samunzala Samunzala followed hot on the heels of the arrest of the former fisheries and justice ministers. The two, Esau and Shangala, were arrested on Saturday.
The other accused in the matter are the former MD of Investec Asset Management Namibia, James Hatuikulipi, his cousin Tamson 'Fitty' Hatuikulipi, who is also the son-in-law of Esau and Ricardo Gustavo, a senior manager at Investec Asset Management Namibia, but currently on suspension; and Pius Mwatelulo who is the sixth accused.
The accused were heavily guarded and in handcuffs when they made their way to court for their maiden appearance in a matter that has generated massive public interest, with the court gallery packed to the rafters. Both Esau and Shanghala were forced to resign after the Fishrot Files scandal was exposed in the local and international media.
The six accused, who were neatly dressed, face charges ranging from corruption to money laundering and fraud as well as for contravening the Fisheries Act.
During the brief court session, prosecutor Advocate ED Marondedze indicated the state was ready to start with the matter, while the defence team asked for more time to consult the accused.
Marondedze further informed the court that all accused are charged with counts of violation of the Prevention of Organised Crimes Act (POCA).
The bail hearing has been set down for this morning in the Windhoek Magistrate's Court.
The six have roped in South African senior counsels Mike Hellens and Dawie Joubert, who will be receiving instructions from local lawyers Eliaser Nekwaya, Tinashe Chibwana and Appolos Shimakeleni.
Esau and his co-accused were arrested following reports that an Icelandic fishing company Samherji reportedly secured access to horse mackerel quotas in Namibia by paying bribes of around N$150 million to politicians and businessmen between 2012 and 2018, according to the Fishrot Files of WikiLeaks.
According to media reports, Samherji's CEO and biggest shareholder, Þorsteinn Már Baldvinsson, authorised the bribe payments. The group have been under the microscope of the Anti-Corruption Commission since the beginning of this month, where they were being investigated on allegations of conspiracies to commit corrupt practices, corruption, bribery, money laundering, tax evasion and related crimes all in relation to the unfolding scandal.
ACC director-general Paulus Noa said the allegations as reported by the whistleblower implicated Esau, Shanghala, Gustavo, James and Tamson Hatuikulipi, as well as companies owned by the accused.
He said the investigation established that the agreement on cooperation in fisheries and aquaculture entered between the government and the Angolan government did not benefit the ordinary citizens and or contribute to the economy as should have been the case by the terms of the agreement.
"ACC's investigations revealed that companies owned by some of the suspects or proxies were used as conduit to facilitate payments of millions of dollars into other bank accounts of companies linked to the suspects," he said.