Namibia: ACC Investigates Drought-Relief Rot

A FIRM owned by corruption-accused James Hatuikulipi and former minister of justice Sacky Shanghala allegedly scored N$3,1 million in a botched drought-relief contract paid for by the National Fishing Corporation of Namibian (Fishcor).

The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) is investigating the disappearance of N$4,1 million earmarked for buying needy Namibians drought-relief food in 2016.

The Namibian has learnt the ACC's investigations uncovered that the bulk of the N$4,1 million found its way into the bank account of a company owned by Hatuikulipi and Shanghala.

Flamingo Inflight Catering is the company in question, which is also owned by Hatuikulipi's long-time friend and business partner, former National Planning Commission (NPC) permanent secretary Leevi Hungamo, and former secretary to the president Ndutala Angolo.

Authorities are trying to understand how a phantom Hatuikulipi-linked company, Flamingo Commodities Supplies, entered the contract as an unexplained third party to supply Fishcor with dried fish products as drought-relief food.

The ACC investigation is now claiming that the dried fish paid for by Fishcor was never delivered, and the money ended in the hands of a company controlled by Hatuikulipi and Shanghala.

This happened while leaving about 730 000 Namibians facing starvation, according to a 2016 assessment report by the NPC.

The said transaction took place in 2016 when Hatuikulipi was Fishcor's chairman.

The Namibian could not find any records of Flamingo Commodities Supplies at the Business and Intellectual Property Authority (Bipa).

Despite the company seemingly not being legally registered, its name appeared on documents linked to the transaction.

The authorities have also approached Hungamo to provide information regarding Flamingo Commodities Supplies.

Hungamo this week distanced himself from the transaction and the phantom company.

GOVERNMENT OBJECT

Assisting the government in providing the nation's drought-relief programme with food was done through a 'government objective' arrangement.

This meant the Cabinet sold fishing quotas to Fishcor as a means to fund its special projects, like the drought-relief programme and the upliftment of marginalised communities.

The government spent about N$916 million to fund its drought-relief programme between 2015 and 2016.

This was after president Hage Geingob declared a state of emergency on account of the persisting drought affecting the country.

Fishcor's former chief executive officer, Mike Nghipunya, then entered into a N$4,1 million contract with little-known Wanakadu Investments.

Wanakadu was responsible for supplying the state-owned fishing company with dried fish products.

The company, which has no known experience in the fishing or food-supply sectors, is owned by Phillipus Mwapopi.

Mwapopi is currently in police custody awaiting trial, and was charged in connection with his alleged role in the Fishrot saga.

Documents show that Mwapopi provided Nghipunya with a quotation to provide Fishcor with 173 bags of dried fish, 200 bags of dried kingklip bones, and 150 bags of dried hake heads at a cost of N$4,1 million.

The quotation was dated 15 June 2016. Nghipunya gave the go-ahead for Mwapopi's Wanakadu Investments to supply the goods two weeks later.

"I am pleased to inform you that your quotation submitted to us for the supply of dried fish products for drought relief has been approved. You should provide us with an invoice for payment at your earliest convenience," Nghipunya wrote to Mwapopi on 30 June 2016, adding that a handover ceremony was scheduled for 20 July 2016 in Windhoek.

ENTER HATUIKULIPI AND HUNGAMO

While the nation was suffering the devastating drought, Hatuikulipi, Shanghala and their associates were allegedly benefiting from Namibia's food aid.

Documents seen by The Namibian show the ACC claims that Mwapopi's Wanakadu Investment never delivered on the dried fish products.

This was while the proceeds from the transaction ended up in the bank accounts of a company owned by both Hatuikulipi and Shanghala.

The documents further indicated that after the parastatal paid Mwapopi on 8 July 2016, he then paid about 76%, or N$3,1 million of the N$4,1 million paid to him by Fishcor, over to an entity called Flamingo Commodity Supplies.

The authorities could not establish Flamingo Commodity Supplies' existence. Hungamo said he only got to know about Flamingo Commodity Supplies in 2021 when the ACC questioned him.

The Namibian has seen a N$3,1 million invoice from Flamingo Commodity Supplies billed to Wanakadu Investment and signed on 13 June 2016.

However, investigation reports indicate that the N$3,1 million, although billed by Flamingo Commodity Supplies, ended up in bank accounts belonging to Flamingo Inflight Catering.

Hungamo confirmed that money was paid to Flamingo Inflight Catering.

He said he was stunned when the ACC told him this year that the company received millions via Fishcor.

Hungamo said he contacted the Flamingo Inflight Catering's finance manager for clarity.

"I was in shock when the ACC told me we received money from Fishcor. I was like, Fishcor? We have nothing to do with them. When I spoke to our manager he said he suspected nothing at the time (in 2016)," he said.

Flamingo Inflight Catering is a subsidiary of Hanganeni Investment Holdings, owned by Hungamo, Hatuikulipi, Shanghala and Angolo.

Its business is to supply airlines with meals for their passengers.

On 19 July 2016, a day after the funds landed in Flamingo Inflight Catering's bank account, it was moved to two different entities linked to Hatuikulipi.

Hungamo explained that at the time, Hatuikulipi allegedly gave instructions to move the money immediately, because it was paid into Flamingo Inflight Catering's account "by accident".

"Bank statements confirm that the money was transferred from the company the following day," Hungamo said last week.

Angolo on Thursday said she is not aware of the transactions.

"I am only hearing this thing from you. The ACC never questioned me. I am not involved in those things (Fishrot)," she said.

DENY

The ACC questioned Mwapopi on 29 September 2020 on why he received the payment from Fishcor before any product was delivered.

In a sworn statement, Mwapopi said the products were delivered, but denied paying kickbacks.

He said he approached Fishcor through Nghipunya's office to assist the parastatal with the drought-relief programme.

He claims to have sourced the goods from the late Nicodemus Muulyau who, along with his associates, were running a storage facility at Karibib.

Mwapopi said he received N$4,1 million from Fishcor on 8 July 2016 before paying N$3,1 million to Flamingo Commodity Supplies a week later.

"I never did business with James Hatuikulipi. I paid the money to Flamingo Commodities Supplies as per account details provided by Nicky (Muulyau)," Mwapopi said in a statement.

He said: "I have also not paid any kickback to Mike Nghipunya, and I am not related to him."

When approached for comment yesterday, ACC spokesperson Josefina Nghituwamata said: "The matter of Flamingo Inflight Catering forms part of the accounts linked to the Fishcor alleged corruption cases."

WHO IS MWAPOPI?

Little is known about Mwapopi, who was the last person alongside Otneel Shuudifonya to be arrested regarding the Fishrot scandal.

Mwapopi (36) was born and attended primary school at Swakopmund. He then moved to the Ohangwena region for his high school career.

He has worked as an undercover city police officer from 2006 until the time of his arrest.

He has obtained a degree in economics, a postgraduate degree in business administration, a master's degree in business administration, and another master's degree in public policy management.

He owns Wanakadu Investments, which specialises in construction, general investments, consulting, and the supply of goods and services.

The company's profile lists Mwapopi as the sole owner.

"The company is owned by me as a young Namibian individual from a previously economically marginalised background," he said.

The company is based in Windhoek, but offers services to a wide range of customers in 13 regions in Namibia with the aim "to expand in the Southern African Development Community region".

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