Namibia: Mbumba, Shaningwa Listed As Fishrot State Witnesses

Judge's gavel (file photo)

Vice President Nangolo Mbumba, Swapo secretary general Sophia Shaningwa, secretary to Cabinet George Simataa and lawyer Sisa Namandje are listed as state witnesses in the Fishrot court case.

The four individuals are part of a 167-person list compiled by the state as witnesses to assist in prosecuting the corruption case that involves N$75 million.

Shaningwa has, however, bluntly refused to testify, saying "I cannot be a witness of such [a case]".

"At the time in question of 'Fishrot' revelations, I was heading the Ministry of Urban and Rural Development as minister. Before that I was heading Omusati region as a governor," she told The Namibian yesterday.

She started her job as Swapo secretary general in March 2018.

"I must be told where I fit in as a state witness. This looks like a misinterpretation of facts," Shaningwa said.

Several Namibians involved in the scandal have been arrested, including former fisheries minister Bernhard Esau, his son-in-law Tamson 'Fitty' Hatuikulipi, former justice minister Sacky Shanghala and Mike Nghipunya, the former chief executive of the national fishing company, Fishcor.

Two top former managers of a Namibian branch of the South African investment fund Investec - James Hatuikulipi, the firm's former managing director for asset management (and Tamson Hatuikulipi's cousin), and the firm's former head of client management, Ricardo Gustavo - were also arrested for their alleged involvement in the scheme.

Altogether, they are charged with depriving the Namibian state of around N$175 million through alleged corruption, bribery and money laundering.

Prosecutor general Martha Imalwa, who is responsible for prosecuting in the name of the state in criminal proceedings, told The Namibian on Saturday that the witness list in circulation was not published by the state.

"I note with great concern that there's allegedly such a list in circulation that has been published without the knowledge of the state. Therefore I cannot comment on such a list," she said.

Anti-Corruption Commission director general Paulus Noa declined to comment.

"Kindly address your questions to the PG's office. The responsibility of prosecution and compilation of witnesses lies with the prosecutor general's Office and not the ACC," he said.

Lawyer Richard Metcalffe, who is representing Esau and Tamson Hatuikulipi, confirmed knowledge of the witness lists.

This was after High Court Judge Christie Liebenberg ordered the state to provide the defence lawyers the list of state witnesses.

Metcalfe said state witnesses cannot refuse to testify.

"The defence counsel also can't consult those witnesses," he said. The state can also add additional witnesses to the case.

The Fishrot scandal has several tentacles. One of them was the alleged theft of around N$75 million from the state-owned National Fishing Corporation of Namibia (Fishcor).

Part of that money was allegedly used to fund luxury lifestyles and residential properties for Esau, his son-in-law, James Hatuikulipi and Shanghala.

Another portion of the N$75 million was allegedly used to keep president Hage Geingob in power by funding his Swapo election campaign in 2017.

Geingob has in the past denied any wrongdoing.

Questions sent to Mbumba were not answered over the weekend.

Lawyer Marén de Klerk, who is accused of being the paymaster in the Fishrot scandal, told the ACC in April last year that Shanghala and James Hatuikulipi told him Mbumba approved a Swapo structure that benefited from money stolen from Fishcor.

Last year, Mbumba, who was Swapo's administrator during the alleged Fishrot funding, warned against trial by public opinion.

Mbumba said government machinery should catch up with those who got dirty money. "It will catch up with them."

The state witnesses list also includes Namandje who faced allegations of money laundering in this fishing scandal. Namandje's inclusion as a witness is the clearest sign yet that he is off the hook.

Between 2015 and 2017, Namandje's law firm received and processed payments amounting to about N$23 million alleged to be part of the Fishrot corruption scandal.

The lawyer revealed that at least N$7,5 million of the N$23 million processed through the trust account of his firm was meant to fund Swapo's "2017 congress activities" at which president Geingob was elected party president.

About N$15 million from Fishcor was later paid - via Namandje's law firm - to businessman Vaino Nghipondoka and Swapo's Oshikoto regional coordinator, Armas Amukwiyu, in 2015. Nghipondoka and Amukwiyu are also listed as state witnesses.

Efforts to get comment from Namandje over the weekend were not successful but he has in the past denied any wrongdoing.

Namanddje's close friend Sacky Kadhila-Amoomo, who was secretly filmed facilitating bribes for Esau and Swapo, is also listed as a state witness.

Kadhila-Amoomo's company Omualu Fishing is one of the biggest beneficiaries of Esau's fishing quotas allocations regime.

Omualu's finance manager Mariana Holtzhausen is also listed as a state witness.

Businessman Desmond Amunyela is listed as a state witness as well. He told The Namibian yesterday that he provided a confirmatory statement to authorities about fish sold to Fishcor.

Other prominent state witnesses in the case include Swapo's Ndilimani Cultural Troupe manager Jesse Nombanza, former Fishcor finance manager Paulus Ngalangi, Swapo Party Youth League secretary Ephraim Nekongo, lawyers Stoan Horn and Celeste Coetzee and IJG Securities chief executive Mark Späth.

Former Fishcor board members listed as state witnesses include former Ohangwena governor Usko Nghaamwa, Khomas governor Laura McLeod Katjirua, Moses Maurihungirire and Ndaendomwenyo Sheya, who also served as Esau's personal assistant.

ANGOLAN DONATION

There is also another list which includes 175 individuals who could be state witnesses in the other Fishrot case, known as the Namgomar case.

It involves corruption of around N$103 million allegedly stolen from a fishing donation meant for the Angolan government.

The money was paid to an entity called Namgomar Pesca Namibia, whose sole director was Ricardo Gustavo.

He is accused of passing on dirty money to himself and to individuals like James Hattuikulipi.

In this case, the state witness list includes individuals such as justice minister Yvonne Dausab and home affairs minister Albert Kawana.

Whistleblower Johannes Stefansson, the former CEO of Icelandic fishing company Samherji's operations in Namibia, is listed as a state witness, too.

Former Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources director Anna Erastus who was responsible for issuing fishing quotas, is also a state witness, together with Sharon Neumbo, a businesswoman who turned whistleblower.

Other witnesses include Ninety One (previously Investec Asset Management) manager Gwynneth Rukoro and three officials from Pointbreak Wealth Management: Aretha Burger, Yamillah Katjirua and Jenéne Beukes.

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