Namibia: PG Weighs in On Fishrot

Former Samherji employee-turned-whistleblower Johannes Stefansson is set to be subpoenaed as a state witness in the ongoing Fishrot saga, pending the outcome of the investigations by the Anti-Corruption Commission.

Stefansson ran Samherji's Namibian business as a director until 2016. He recently came forward to testify about the company's activities, which have become an international scandal.

Prosecutor general Martha Imalwa told The Namibian that her office has already communicated with the Icelandic authorities in terms of the Namibian International Cooperation in Criminal Matters Act of 2000.

Namibia cooperates with foreign countries on the basis of this act to facilitate the provision of evidence and the execution of sentences in criminal cases, and the confiscation and transfer of the proceeds of crime between Namibia and foreign states; as well as to provide for matters connected therewith.

"When we take the decision to prosecute, we will definitely consider having him (Johannes Stefansson) as a witness. We are already in touch with our counterparts in Iceland, as this has not only affected Namibia, but also various other countries", she stated.

Imalwa added that the public should have confidence in the work of her office because "we are not sleeping, we are at work. This is a test case for Namibia to ensure that our investigators are at work, and that justice prevails in the end".

Al Jazeera's investigation exposed the roles of well-connected Namibians who facilitated Samherji's entry into the industry, in part based on the "Fishrot" archives released by WikiLeaks.

Fishrot is a database which published over 3 000 documents on WikiLeaks from Stefansson, which alleges that the company paid over US$10 million to politicians - some who have now resigned - to get access to horse mackerel quotas.

The documents include internal emails, memos and PowerPoint presentations.

Imalwa further explained that as Stefansson is now under tight protection, her office needs to work with the relevant authorities in Iceland first before they can subpoena him.

The 'Fishrot 6', as they are now known, are Bernhard Esau (61); Sacky Shanghala (42); the former managing director of Investec Asset Management in Namibia, James Hatuikulipi (44); suspended Investec Namibia clients director Ricardo Gustavo (44); Esau's son-in-law, Tamson 'Fitty' Hatuikulipi (38); and Pius 'Taxa' Mwatelulo (31).

They appeared in the Windhoek Magistrate's Court on Monday. The case was postponed to 20 February 2020.

The case has generated massive public interest after the Al Jazeera investigation documentary aired this past weekend.

ACC director general Paulus Noa said he will not discuss the matter with the media for now, because the investigation is still ongoing.

Administrative and human rights lawyer Henry Shimutwikeni observed that Stefansson's testimony will be very crucial to the case.

"It appears from the investigation footage (by Al Jazeera) that he was directly involved, and has first-hand evidence. His testimony will definitely be very important in the anticipated criminal proceedings.

"However, my views are that the available legislation which we have now must give the broadest interpretation that he is afforded witness protection," Shimutwikeni told The Namibian.

Another lawyer, who spoke to the Namibian on condition of anonymity, said "of course, Stefansson is a critical witness because it appears from the Al Jazeera documentary that he was part and parcel of the whole scheme that was concocted by the implicated persons".

Thorstein Mar Baldvinsson has since stood down as CEO of Samherji while the investigations are ongoing.

The Namibian coast is home to a vibrant fishing and fish processing industry that has contributed around 20% of export earnings since 1990.

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