Namibia: Geingob Named Fishrot Boss of Bosses

Lawyer Marén de Klerk in April last year revealed how he became part of a corruption scheme, initially baptised 'Ndilimani Project', to allegedly fund president Hage Geingob's presidential campaign.

De Klerk revealed that former Investec Asset Management Namibia's managing director, James Hatuikulipi, and former minister of justice Sacky Shanghala assured him that Swapo gave them permission to create an entity to be used as a conduit to fund Geingob's political ambition.

He also implicated former minister of fisheries and marine resources Bernhard Esau, who changed the law with Shanghala to enable the scheme.

The lawyer, who fled to South Africa last year, is set to be slapped with corruption charges.

Geingob, according to De Klerk, was code-named 'The Boss' when the N$2 billion corruption scheme was hatched.

This is according to a 477-page affidavit submitted by De Klerk to the Anti-Corruption Commision (ACC) in April 2020.

The affidavit laid bare how the Fishrot corruption project was executed.

It includes documents, emails, text messages, bank statements, and details on meetings in Cape Town and agreements.

The Fishrot scheme was partly executed through alleged money laundering, using money from Icelandic seafood company Samherji and Namibia's National Fishing Corporation (Fishcor).

Estimates from court documents show that at least N$100 million was channelled through De Klerk and Geingob's lawyer Sisa Namandje to fund Swapo and its cronies.

Some of the money was used to pay for services and politicians linked to Geingob's campaign and his faction of leaders, such as deputy minister of works and transport Veikko Nekundi, and Swapo Youth League secretary Ephraim Nekongo.

PROJECT NDILIMANI

Geingob has in the past denied knowledge of the corruption scandal, insisting that Swapo did not "directly" benefit from the scheme.

The president's supporters insisted that Geingob was not aware of the corruption, and that he is the victim of name droppers.

De Klerk's affidavit, however, puts Geingob in the heart of the scandal.

De Klerk said he met with Shanghala and Hatuikulipi around May and June in 2017 during which they discussed a scheme that would be used to launder money for Swapo.

At that meeting, the lawyer said Shanghala and Hatuikulipi - on instruction of 'The Boss' - proposed to set up an entity to deal with and redistribute money allegedly donated to Swapo by its supporters.

They named the scheme 'Ndilimani Project'.

"Shanghala and Hatuikulipi explained to me they were mandated by president Hage Geingob, who they referred to as 'The Boss', to set up a structure to deal with the management and distribution of contributions paid to Swapo and the government by their supporters," De Klerk said about the 2017 meeting.

Shanghala and Hatuikulipi, the lawyer said, said there was no structure in place at the time to administer or distribute these financial donations.

De Klerk said the two told him that collection and payments were disorganised at that point.

As a result, "'The Boss' had become extremely concerned that Swapo had lost control over the contribution collection process, and that there was no system in place to link the money received to the ultimate beneficiary".

The Ndilimani Project was therefore to be implemented "with urgency", De Klerk said, because Shanghala and Hatuikulipi anticipated contributions "to increase dramatically ahead of the local and government elections".

Some of the alleged contributions were to be made to Swapo directly, and some through government-owned entities, such as Fishcor, the lawyer said.

Shanghala allegedly described Hatuikulipi as the "architect of the Ndilimani Project" who had backing from 'The Boss' on how the alleged donations would be handled.

"Shanghala informed me that 'The Boss' appointed Hatuikulipi as his economic adviser to design a bespoke structure to manage and distribute these contributions," the lawyer said.

According to De Klerk, Shanghala told him that 'The Boss' agreed with Hatuikulipi's recommendation to proceed with the Ndilimani Project.

"Monies already received would be transferred into attorneys' trust accounts, which would be managed by the attorneys operating these accounts as fiduciaries, as instructed by Shanghala and Hatuikulipi, until the Ndilimani structure was in place," he said.

De Klerk said he does not recall being told which other Namibian lawyers they approached, or intended to approach.

Hatuikulipi - the alleged mastermind of the Fishrot project with an estimated N$1 billion in cash - is said to have discussed with De Klerk how to structure the Ndilimani Project.

"Hatuikulipi believed that a trust should be at the centre of the Ndilimani structure. This trust would own the holding company, which in turn would own the shares in separate subsidiaries, each set up for a separate purpose," De Klerk said.

The lawyer recalled that Shanghala was salivating over the money that was expected to enter the Ndilimani structure.

De Klerk said he was set to be paid 2,5% of the value of money flowing into the Ndilimani structure.

"My mind raced at the prospect of how much money I could make from the new venture," he said.

De Klerk claimed he failed to question why the ruling party's donations would be made through a government-owned company and not directly to Swapo.

EXECUTION

Now that the plan was in place, the next move was to justify the Ndilimani structure.

They found a loophole.

De Klerk said in 2017, Shanghala and Hatuikulipi had plans to restructure Swapo's Ndilimani Cultural Troupe to be a modern, sustainable and well-governed entity and to oversee the election-funding process.

The Ndilimani Cultural Troupe is Swapo's music propaganda group. Ironically, Hatuikulipi's father was one of the founding members of the Ndilimani group in Angola.

According to de Klerk, their plan was to set up a Ndilimani Trust, which would own a holding company and other entities to be created for specific purposes.

Shanghala and Hatuikulipi were to be the first director's appointed to the trust.

The purpose of the trust, according to a letter by Shanghala contained in De Klerk's affidavit, was to administer the affairs of the Ndilimani Cultural Troupe.

All rights to any music produced or to be produced by the troupe would either be owned by this trust or an entity owned by the trust.

De Klerk said Shanghala and Hatuikulipi were to be the donors of the trust on behalf of Swapo.

"At a given point, they [Shanghala and Hatuikulipi] would resign and the secretary general of the Swapo Party would be the one to appoint further trustees," the lawyer said.

According to him, the Ndilimani structure was allegedly backed by the then Swapo secretary general, Nangolo Mbumba.

De Klerk said the Ndilimani Trust was eventually registered on 7 November 2017, but no further action was taken towards the implementation of its mandate as 'The Boss's approval remained outstanding".

Before the Ndilimani Project was finalised, De Klerk said he was instructed by Shanghala to start using Celax Investments as a vehicle through which the monies donated to Swapo could be administered and "ring-fence[d]".

Celax Investments Number One (Pty) Ltd was established by De Klerk in 2017 on instruction of Hatuikulipi to hold 25% shares of African Selection Fishing (Pty) Ltd, which in turn owns 60% of Seaflower Pelagic Processing.

Fishcor held 40% in this joint venture.

De Klerk said it also became clear to him that the 25% shares Celax owned in African Selection Fishing were either owned, or at least controlled by Shanghala, Hatuikulipi and Mike Nghipunya, former Fishcor chief executive officer.

This was evident, De Klerk said, after Hatuikulipi suggested a formula on how Celax could be incorporated into the Ndilimani Project once it was set up.

This meant Hatuikulipi, Shanghala and Nghipunya were joint-venture partners with an institution - Fishcor - under their authority.

Shanghala was the attorney general at the time, Hatuikulipi the chairman of Fishcor, and Nghipunya the chief executive officer.

De Klerk said the creation of Celax Investments "gave birth to a second component of the corrupt scheme".

"It is this vehicle, which was used by Nghipunya and Hatuikulipi to transfer millions of Namibia dollars into, which were effectively run through my trust account," De Klerk said.

The ACC said in court papers that Celax Investments was used to launder close to N$75 million, including payments to Swapo and its leaders.

Through Celax Investments and on instruction of Shanghala and Hatuikulipi, De Klerk processed payments amounting to millions of dollars, mostly made between August and November 2017 - a few weeks before the Swapo congress.

Among those paid through Celax Investments are Nekundi, Nekongo, a certain Naftal Shailemo, Dinapama Manufacturing, Swapo Kalahari District, payments for Swapo Party Youth League special events, the Omkumo Cultural Trust, Otuafika Logistics and Phonill Trust.

De Klerk said he continued to receive instructions to pay large amounts of money out of Celax Investments.

"During the latter part of 2017, I became suspicious concerning the large amounts I was instructed to transfer to third parties ... I recall that on various occasions I questioned Hatuikulipi on whether these were above board, and each time he assured me the payments were in order and that it carried the knowledge and approval of the president. Hatuikulipi further impressed upon me to keep the whole project a secret," the lawyer said.

AWAITING TRIAL

State House spokesperson Alfredo Hengari yesterday said the president still maintains he was not party to the scandalous scheme directly or otherwise.

"The president has in the past addressed and denied the most unfair and unfortunate allegations and insinuations being made against him in the matter you are referring to. The president maintains his position in this respect," he said.

Hengari added that, due to the fact that the Fishrot case was still in court, the president will "not seek to jeopardise or influence the administration of justice through public statements induced by the media".

"The president will, when trial-related rules and ethics allow and at an appropriate time, extensively address the unfortunate insinuations, conjecture and mischievous interpretations, with a view to demonstrating their falsity," he said.

A source familiar with the president's take on the matter claimed Geingob is annoyed and believes his name was used by Shanghala and Hatuikulipi for their personal gain.

"It's really not complicated. Greedy individuals conspiring to steal and using the party and name of the president as the key to open doors. These people were lying to - and cheating - one another," the source said.

According to the source, there are no allegations in De Klerk's affidavit that the president approved the transfer of illegal money.

Swapo Party Youth League secretary Ephraim Nekongo yesterday denied having received N$65 000 that was paid into his account by Celax Investments, despite bank records appearing to reflect his name as a beneficiary of the payment.

The money is thought to be referenced as "E Nekongo".

"I have nothing further to say on this matter," he said when asked whether he would resign.

Nekundi also refused to answer various questions, saying there is nothing new about the N$20 000 he allegedly received.

When asked if he has considered resigning over the issue, he asked: "Which law did I contravene?"

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