Namibia: 6 Charged With Fishcor Graft

19 February 2020

The legal troubles of former ministers Bernhard Esau and Sacky Shanghala deepened yesterday, when they appeared in court on charges of corruption and fraud involving N$75,6 million allegedly diverted from the state-owned National Fishing Corporation of Namibia.

Esau, Shanghala, the ex-chairperson of the board of directors of the National Fishing Corporation of Namibia (Fishcor) James Hatuikulipi, the suspended CEO of Fishcor Mike Nghipunya, Esau's son-in-law, Tamson Hatuikulipi, and a sixth accused, Pius Mwatelulo, appeared in the Windhoek Magistrate's Court on a total of four charges late yesterday afternoon.

After they were informed of the new charges they are facing, magistrate Linus Samunzala postponed their case to 23 April for further investigations to be carried out, and ordered that they should remain in custody at Windhoek Correctional Facility in the meantime.

Shanghala and James Hatuikulipi also appeared in the dock in respect of two other matters, in which each of them was added as an accused in cases in which alleged associates of them have been charged with trying to interfere with the Anti-Corruption Commission's investigation of a corruption and bribery scandal involving the provision of fishing quotas to Icelandic-owned companies that were active in the Namibian fishing sector.

In the case involving charges relating to Fishcor, Esau, Nghipunya, Shanghala and James Hatuikulipi are being charged with corruptly using an office or position in a public body to obtain gratification, while Tamson Hatuikulipi and Mwatelulo are charged with conspiring to commit the offence of corruptly using an office or position to obtain gratification.

According the charges read out to the six men, the state is alleging that Esau used his former position as fisheries minister, Shanghala used his position as attorney general and later minister of justice, James Hatuikulipi used his position as Fishcor board chairperson, and Nghipunya used his post as CEO of Fishcor between August 2014 and December 2019 to obtain N$75,6 million that was paid to them or entities of their choice.

The money is alleged to have been paid through the company Celax Investment Number One (Pty) Ltd, via the law firm De Klerk, Horn & Coetzee Incorporated.

In the fraud charge faced by Esau, Shanghala, James Hatuikulipi, Nghipunya and the other two accused, the state is alleging that they defrauded the government and Fishcor during the period from August 2014 to December 2019 by channelling payments totalling N$75,6 million to themselves or entities of their choice, through the company Celax Investment Number One and the law firm De Klerk, Horn & Coetzee Inc.

All six of the accused are also charged with a count of money laundering.

The charges on which they appeared in court yesterday are separate from other charges in an earlier case in which all of them, except for Nghipunya, are due to make another appearance in the dock tomorrow.

In that case, Esau, Shanghala, the Hatuikulipis and Ricardo Gustavo, who is a former senior colleague of James Hatuikulipi at the investment company Investec Asset Management Namibia, are charged with having accepted or agreed to accept payments totalling not less than N$103 million from the Icelandic-owned companies Mermaria Seafood Namibia and Esja Seafood during the period from 2014 to 2019 to secure a continuous allocation of fishing quotas for the two companies.

Esau is also charged with a count of corruptly using his office or position as minister of fisheries and marine resources to obtain gratification in the form of awarding a quota for up to 55 000 tonnes of horse mackerel to the company Namgomar Pesca between 2014 and 2019.

Shanghala, the Hatuikulipis and Gustavo are further charged with conspiring with Esau during the period from 2014 to 2019 to commit the offence of using an office or position to obtain gratification.

In another charge, Esau, Shanghala, James and 'Fitty' Hatuikulipi and Gustavo are accused of fraud or tax evasion committed between 2014 and 2019 for allegedly misrepresenting to the Ministry of Finance and the Directorate of Inland Revenue that Namgomar Pesca Namibia generated revenue of N$14,1 million from 2014 to 2019, whereas the company actually generated revenue of N$40,1 million.

In the other cases in which Shanghala and James Hatuikulipi were added as accused yesterday, the state is alleging that Shanghala attempted to defeat or obstruct the course of justice in December last year - when he was already in custody on the first set of charges - by trying to have evidence removed form his house in Windhoek.

Hatuikulipi was joined as an accused on charges of corruptly offering or giving a bribe of N$250 000 to an investigating officer of the ACC, alternatively improperly influencing an ACC officer, and attempting to defeat or obstruct the course of justice, by trying to bribe the officer in an attempt to get him to remove evidence seized by the ACC and provide this to them.

Shanghala and Hatuikulipi have to make their next court appearance in those cases, too, on 23 April, and also remain in custody on those charges.

Defence lawyers Lucius Murorua, Tabang Phatela, Milton Engelbrecht and Florian Beukes represented the six accused during yesterday's court proceedings. Deputy prosecutor general Ed Marondedze, assisted by Hesekiel Iipinge, represented the state.

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