Windhoek — Former ministers Bernhard Esau and Sacky Shanghala, as well as their associates charged with corruption in the unfolding international fishing kickback scandal have launched a fresh bid for their release from custody, claiming their arrest was politically motivated.
The six accused have approached the High Court on an urgent basis, challenging the legality surrounding their arrest and continued detention.
"Our unlawful arrests and detention, pursuant to hastily crafted charges which were not even properly considered must be seen in this context of political activity and the second responded (ACC director-general Paulus Noa) yielding to political pressure, rather than carefully executing his functions," the accused claim.
The six are seeking a High Court order that would set aside their warrants of arrest, the decision to prosecute them and decision to postpone their case to 20 February 2020. The group further wants an order that will have them released from police custody with immediate effect. The urgent application will be heard this Thursday morning.
Esau and Shanghala, 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, were all arrested in the wake of allegations 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. Pius Mwatelulo was also arrested and is currently in custody. In an affidavit, Esau and his co-accused say the timing of the release of information, which led to their arrest in November, was meant to influence the outcome of the general election.
"The agenda appears to be a regime change and the applicants and I were seen as convenient tools to achieve that objective," stated the affidavit. On 28 November when the group appeared in court for a formal bail application, the public held a peaceful demonstration against their release on bail.
However, Esau and his co-accused say the protestors' actions were politically motivated as Affirmative Repositioning (AR) movement and independent presidential candidate Dr Panduleni Itula allegedly led them. The group further allege ACC director-general Paulus Noa, the Windhoek magistrate, and prosecutor general, inspector-general of the Namibian police and other five respondents succumbed to political pressure to arrest, detain and prosecute them as a result of the wide publication and attention the case has been receiving.
Esau and his co-accused also claim the officers of the ACC forcefully transported them against their will from Seeis police station were they are currently being detained to their respective farms in order for search warrants to be executed.
The group allegedly demanded that they be transported by a minibus or alternatively a double cab vehicle as they were not comfortable being driven in a police van, which the officers did not comply with. "Officials of the third respondent were adamant that the second and third applicants and I must accompany them to the respective farms and that we must be transported in the police van.
This prompted our legal practitioners on record to address a letter to the third respondent and also copied to the sixth respondent, expressing the view that it is not mandatory for us to be present when the search warrants are being executed and that we refuse to travel in the back of a police van or any other van, and that should we be so forcefully transported this will amount to kidnapping." Esau allegedly got sick whilst Shanghala and James had backaches from the rough ride. The six are represented by Appolos Shimakeleni Lawyers and Murorua Kurtz Kasper Inc.
Another suspect appears
Meanwhile, a seventh person arrested in connection with the Fishrot scandal, appeared in the Windhoek Magistrate's Court yesterday. Nigel van Wyk, who is allegedly a worker of one of the main accused, was charged with defeating or obstructing the course of justice and for allegedly being in possession of ammunition. His case was postponed to 18 March 2020 for further investigation. He was remanded in custody.