President Hage Geingob has commended Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg for her government's cooperation in the ongoing criminal investigations into the Fishrot scandal, which has led to the arrest of former ministers and businessmen. The head of state made the remarks during a telephonic conversation with Solberg yesterday.
"President Geingob commended the Government of Norway for its cooperation in the criminal investigations, following acts of corruption in the fishing sector in Namibia," the Presidency said through spokesperson Alfredo Hengari.
Norway co-chairs with Palau the High-Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy. It consists of 14 heads of state and government, including leaders from Australia, Fiji, Chile, Ghana, Indonesia, Jamaica, Japan, Mexico, Portugal, Kenya and Canada.
According to Hengari, Geingob informed Solberg that Namibia been undertaking reforms in the fishing sector in order to deal with shortcomings and loopholes that were exploited in the past.
Over a month ago, a lead investigator into the Fishrot bribery scandal claimed there was a lack of cooperation from a number of countries and jurisdictions, including Angola, whose authorities, he said in court at the time, were refusing to assist their Namibian counterparts in ongoing investigations.
Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) chief investigator Andreas Kanyangela last week informed the Windhoek Magistrate's Court that from a total of nine jurisdictions under investigation, only two had cooperated thus far. Kanyangela revealed that only Norway and Iceland have been cooperative.
The ACC was given until 14 December by the Windhoek Magistrate's Court to finalise the investigations.
Former ministers Bernhard Esau and Sacky Shanghala, Tamson 'Fitty' Hatuikulipi, Ricardo Gustavo, James Hatuikulipi, Ricardo Gustavo, Mike Nghipunya and Pius Mwatelulo were arrested last year and face charges ranging from fraud to bribery, corruptly using office for gratification, money laundering and conspiring to commit corruption for the alleged offences.
The charges emanate from allegations that an Icelandic fishing company Samherji reportedly secured access to horse mackerel quotas in Namibia by paying bribes of around N$130 million to politicians and businessmen between 2012 and 2018.
They also face counts of fraud, bribery, corruptly using office for gratification, money laundering and conspiring to commit corruption, in connection with N$75.6 million that was syphoned out of the state-owned National Fishing Corporation of Namibia (Fishcor).
Meanwhile, Geingob, according to the Presidency, also voiced concern to Solgberg over the "unfair classification of Namibia as an upper-middle income country". Geingob said this was done without due consideration for the inequalities of the past.
Geingob said it undermines the potential of the country to benefit from better grants and development assistance.
According to Hengari, Geingob similarly thanked Solberg for her outstanding leadership as Chairperson of the High-Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy.
"As a country with a vast ocean, Geingob assured Solberg of the continued commitment of Namibia to contribute meaningfully to the activities of the panel and expressed in the same vein support for the transformation's document that will be adopted by 28 October 2020," Hengari said.
He said among the five critical areas within the work of the panel, Geingob emphasised that Namibia would focus on the areas of ocean wealth, ocean health and ocean equity and not ocean knowledge and ocean finance.
On her part, Solberg also commended Geingob for his outstanding leadership in the fight against Covid-19 and the significant reduction in the number of confirmed cases in Namibia. Solberg also thanked Geingob for Namibia's support for the candidacy of Norway for the United Nations Security Council. She also informed Geingob that Norway was ready to coordinate with Namibia on issues of mutual concern through the United Nations Security Council.