Namibia: U.S. Sanctions Against Esau and Shanghala Welcomed

A CIVIL society organisation has applauded the United States of America's decision to ban former minister of fisheries and marine resources Bernhard Esau and former minister of justice Sacky Shanghala from entering their country.

The ban was announced by US State Department spokesperson Ned Price in a media statement issued yesterday.

Price said the two former ministers "were involved in corrupt acts that undermined the rule of law and the Namibian public's faith in their government's democratic institutions and public processes, including using their political influence and official power for their personal benefit".

The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) has been pushing for international action on corruption and money laundering, particularly in relation to the Fishrot corruption scandal, IPPR executive director Graham Hopwood told The Namibian yesterday.

He said the move by the US government emphasises the international interest in the Fishrot case, which involves more than 30 jurisdictions.

"The travel ban imposed on the ex-ministers is symbolic of the Biden administration's strong line on international corruption and money laundering," Hopwood said.

"The US administration and other governments should look at taking action against the Icelandic suspects and those outside Namibia who enabled the flow of illicit funds, rather than just focusing on Namibians."

Hopwood said he hopes international action on the case will ultimately see the stolen funds returned to Namibia.

The US mostly applies an anti-kleptocracy law which targets public officials such as Shanghala and Esau.

It does not apply to private citizens involved in the Fishrot case.

This explains why key individuals in this case, such as James Hatuikulipi, had not been banned yet.

The use of this law does not require convictions to be in place - only a credible belief that such individuals have partaken in corrupt activities.

Esau and Shanghala are accused of corruption involving N$175 milion from the fishing sector.

The total value of the fish involved in the scandal is estimated at around N$3 billion.

The US also announced it is barring Esau's family members from entering the country.

"We are publicly designating the following members of Bernhard Esau's family, who are now also ineligible for entry into the United States: his wife, Swamma Esau, and his son Philippus Esau," Price said.

The US said the latest decision reaffirms their commitment to supporting anti-corruption reforms that are key to Namibia's successful future.

"The United States continues to stand with all Namibians in support of democracy and the rule of law, and against those who would undermine these principles for personal gain.

"The department will continue to use authorities like this to promote accountability of corrupt actors in this region and globally," the statement said.

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