Namibia: Venaani Wants Samherji to Repay Fishrot Money

Preparing fish to be tinned (file photo).

Popular Democratic Movement leader McHenry Venaani has condemned the Icelandic fishing company at the centre of the Fishrot scandal, for planning to withdraw from Namibia without repaying the money it fraudulently profited from.

Venaani, in a letter addressed to the company Samherji on Tuesday, demanded that they pay out all the fishermen who lost their jobs.

His letter follows an announcement by Samherji's acting chief executive, Björgólfur Jóhannsson, on Friday that the company intends to gradually withdraw its business operations from Namibia following the exposé of the Fishrot corruption scandal.

Jóhannsson, in a statement issued last week, said the process would be conducted in close consultation with relevant authorities and in line with international standards and law.

Samherji allegedly sold its assets in Namibia, including a N$400 million vessel that it bought in partnership with Namibians, using state-allocated fishing quotas.

"We are aware that Samherji extracted valuable fish and sea products worth billions of dollars from the Namibian coastal waters and benefited itself and the now disgraced former Namibian ministers who are currently incarcerated, to the detriment of the country's populace in general and to the fishermen who lost their jobs subsequent to this deal," Venaani stated.

The company has been accused of bribing top government officials in exchange for favours in the fishing sector.

Former fisheries minister Bernhard Esau and ex-justice minister Sacky Shanghala and four other people implicated in the corruption scandal, who were arrested last year, remain in police custody on corruption charges.

Others involved include former Investec Asset Management Namibia managing director James Hatuikulipi, Esau's son in law Tamson Hatuikulipi, Ricardo Gustavo and Pius Mwatelulo.

The six are accused of benefiting from questionable fishing deals in which kickbacks amounting to at least N$150 million were paid to several people over a four-year period.

The Namibian reported that this scandal could involve transactions worth as much as N$2,5 billion.

Samherji had allegedly been receiving preferential treatment from Esau, including getting fishing quotas on a low price from the National Fishing Corporation of Namibia (Fishcor).

Fishcor had received a 15-year fishing quota worth N$1,8 billion from Esau.

Some of the fishing quotas allocated to Fishcor and some briefcase companies, are part of the quotas Esau took from other companies including Namsov Fishing Enterprises, which employed about 650 people by 2014. The briefcase companies turned out to be a fishing scheme which benefited politicians and some of their business cronies.

Venaani said Samherji should first pay all the fisherman who lost their jobs a monthly salary equal to the amount they would have earned today, taking inflation into account for the years of loss of income "together with a pensionable lump sum calculated on the amount".

He demanded that the company responds within 15 working days or face a potential court interdict if they fail to respond.

"We would at this juncture like to inform you that as the official opposition political party (in parliament), the Popular Democratic Movement (PDM), is part of the relevant authorities and as such, we will participate in all negotiations, especially with regard to the plight of the fishermen who lost their jobs and incomes," he added.

Venaani added: "Noting that many fishermen have committed suicide due to destitution that befell them, these individuals must be considered that their families benefit from these payouts."

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