Namibia: Fishrot Saga Suspects Dealt Massive Blow

The Fishrot accused were dealt a massive blow yesterday in the space of hours after a Windhoek magistrate initially ruled against their application to have charges against them temporarily withdrawn.

One of the suspects also had his bail application rejected.

Windhoek chief magistrate Ingrid Unengu granted the State's application for a further postponement to allow for more investigations in the matter.

Unengu ruled that it was necessary to allow a postponement having taken into consideration that the accused have only spent six months in police custody, the seriousness of the charges, the complexity of the investigations, the prejudice to be suffered by the accused and the interest of justice if the case is removed from the court roll.

Unengu also refused to make the postponement a final remand.

The court postponed the case to 28 August and all accused persons were ordered to remain in police custody.

Last week, deputy prosecutor general Ed Marondedze asked the court to postpone the matter due to investigations which the State has not yet finalised due to the complex nature and cooperation from various countries.

In November 2019, former Cabinet ministers Bernhard Esau and Sacky Shanghala and their co-accused - James Hatuikulipi, Ricardo Gustavo, Tamson 'Fitty' Hatuikulipi and Pius 'Taxa' Mwatelulo were all arrested on counts of fraud, bribery, corruptly using office for gratification, money laundering and conspiring to commit corruption.

They are accused of accepting more than N$130 million in bribes for continuous supply of horse mackerel quotas in Namibia to Icelandic fishing company Samherji.

The alleged crimes were allegedly committed between 2012 and 2018.

Gustavo bail bid fails

Meanwhile, magistrate Johannes Shuuveni yesterday dismissed an application for bail brought by Gustavo.

According to Shuuveni, it would not be in the interest of the administration of justice or public interest to release Gustavo on bail pending his trial on corruption and fraud allegations surfacing from the Fishrot scandal that has made international headlines.

He also said that the charges Gustavo is facing are very serious and if convicted would result in a lengthy prison sentence.

According to Shuuveni, it is unfortunate that Gustavo did not "proffer" any defence to the charges he is facing for the court to consider.

"I am saying advisedly that this is not a criminal trial where the prosecution is allowed to close every loophole at this stage of the proceedings, Shuuveni said."

He continued: "However, it would have been convenient if the applicant had done so for the court to consider and weigh his defence to the charges against the respondent's case at this stage and see whether there is a reasonable possibility of his defence succeeding at the trial."

Gustavo, who is a former Investec Asset Management Namibia senior employee, is director of Namgomar Pesca Namibia, whose sister company, Namgomar SA Pesca, was part of an agreement between the governments of Namibia and Angola for horse mackerel fishery.

Namgomar Pesca Namibia then entered into an agreement with Icelandic-owned company, Samherji, which allegedly paid more than N$100 million in kickbacks to businesspeople and politicians.

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