Namibia: Fishrot Accused Pleads for Bail

Judge's gavel (file photo).
18 November 2021

"I believe, and I verily do so, that the public's interest is not to see me rotting in pretrial detention."

This was part of a seven-minute address which Ricardo Gustavo, former director of Investec Asset Management in Namibia and since late November 2019 one of the men facing charges in the Fishrot fishing quota fraud and corruption case, made during his bail hearing in the Windhoek High Court yesterday.

Addressing judge Herman Oosthuizen from the witness stand at the end of the first part of his testimony, before the start of cross-examination by the state, Gustavo (46) said: "I stand before this court perhaps like the biblical David against Goliath."

Holding up a copy of Namibia's Constitution, he continued: "I stand before this court armed only with this document. This is my hope, my lord. The Constitution of the republic."

Namibia is a constitutional democracy, Gustavo said. "I'm presumed innocent until proven guilty, but to date, the attitude of the state has been that I'm guilty until I prove myself innocent," he said.

He feels like a boxer whose stronger arm is tied behind his back while he is expected "to fight the full might of the state [with its] infinite resources", Gustavo said.

The public's interest is to see that justice is done and that the case in which he is charged comes to an end, he said. "The public's interest is not to see people imprisoned, fighting pretrial detention."

Before those remarks, Gustavo told the judge he could be placed under house arrest if granted bail.

He is also prepared to wear a Global Positioning System bracelet through which his movements can be monitored, and to raise money to enable the police or Anti-Corruption Commission to track his whereabouts with such a device, he said.

With help from relatives, he would be able to raise N$100 000 for a bail deposit, he told the judge.

Previously in his testimony, he described his financial situation as "dire" as a result of a Prevention of Organised Crime Act order which has in effect frozen his bank accounts and prevents him from selling any assets to raise money.

Prison is "a crushing environment" which affects a detainee not only physically but also mentally and spiritually, he said.

The charges Gustavo is facing are connected to his involvement in the company Namgomar Pesca Namibia, through which Icelandic-owned fishing companies secured access to Namibian fishing quotas which had supposedly been allocated to an Angolan company under a fisheries cooperation agreement between Namibia and Angola.

He has told the court he is denying guilt on all charges and will be standing his trial if released on bail, as he believes he did not commit the crimes of which he is accused. He believes the state does not have a strong case against him, he also said.

Gustavo told the court he became involved in Namgomar Pesca Namibia during the last quarter of 2013.

One of his co-accused, former Investec Asset Management Namibia managing director James Hatuikulipi, was involved with the Angolan mother company of Namgomar Pesca Namibia, called Namgomar Pescas Limitada, in an advisory capacity, Gustavo said.

For his own role as an employee and director of the Namibian company, Gustavo said, he was paid a total amount of N$6,9 million as a salary from 2014 to 2019.

He also received payments totalling N$12 million, which were for director's fees and as loans, and further borrowed about N$3,4 million from the company to pay for renovation work at his house at a residential estate near Windhoek, Gustavo said.

The scale of the salary he received for his part-time job at Namgomar Pesca Namibia was "not at all" exorbitant when compared to other salaries in the Namibian fishing industry, he said.

Gustavo is due to continue with his testimony today.

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