Namibia: Fishrot Accused Ask for Millions to Pay Lawyers

22 November 2021

FORMER fisheries and marine resources minister Bernhard Esau, his son-in-law Tamson Hatuikulipi and one of their co-accused in the Fishrot fishing quotas fraud and corruption case, Ricardo Gustavo, are saying they urgently need millions of dollars to pay their lawyers.

The three men are asking the High Court to give them access to some of their assets, which they say they need to pay their lawyers for work done over the past year and to cover the expected costs of their legal representation during their eventual trial in the Windhoek High Court.

In documents filed at the court, Esau and Hatuikulipi say they need to jointly pay about N$856 000 to the law firm Metcalfe Beukes Attorneys, which is representing them, for past work to avoid losing their legal representation.

Each of them further says he needs N$1,5 million to meet his anticipated legal expenses in their pending criminal trial and in legal proceedings under the Prevention of Organised Crime Act.

Gustavo has informed the court that he owed his lawyer, Trevor Brockerhoff, about N$1,3 million on 21 October - before his bail hearing took place last week - and also expects that he will need an additional N$1,5 million for future legal expenses in the cases in which he is involved.

The prosecutor general has given notice that she is opposing the three men's request to be allowed to raise money from their assets, that have been under a Prevention of Organised Crime Act provisional restraint order since November last year.

The act has a provision that states the High Court may allow payment to be made from restrained property for the reasonable legal and living expenses of the person whose assets have been placed under a restraint order.

Hatuikulipi says all of his assets, which according to him have a combined value of about N$53 million, have been placed under the control of two curators as a result of the restraint order granted by High Court judge Orben Sibeya on 13 November last year.

He also says that he has liabilities amounting to about N$10 million, leaving the nett value of his assets at about N$43 million. His assets include 21 fixed properties, situated in Windhoek and at Swakopmund, Langstrand, Ondangwa, Ongwediva, Gobabis and Eenhana, half shares in seven sectional title units at Swakopmund, bank accounts with undisclosed balances and N$2,8 million in a trust account of another law firm, Hatuikulipi has informed the court.

Hatuikulipi's assets under restraint further include 11 motor vehicles, two buses and three lorries, according to an inventory which he provided to the court. Among his cars are a Mecedes-Benz R231 roadster, valued at N$2,9 million, and a Mercedes-Benz W213, valued at N$2,2 million.

According to Esau, his assets include the farm Dakota in the Gobabis district, an immovable property in Hochland Park, Windhoek, five motor vehicles and six bank accounts with undisclosed balances. He says on his farm he has about 170 head of cattle, 190 sheep and about 180 goats.

Gustavo has informed the court he would be able to pay his legal expenses only if he is allowed to raise money from some of his assets under restraint.

Among his assets are two properties at the upmarket and exclusive Finkenstein Estate east of Windhoek, five motor vehicles and undisclosed sums of money in five bank accounts.

In the indictment in which the state sets out the criminal charges on which the Fishrot accused are to be prosecuted, it is alleged that Hatuikulipi derived financial benefits totalling about N$57,6 million from his involvement in the corrupt allocation and use of Namibian fishing quotas to which Icelandic-owned companies gained access.

The state is alleging that Gustavo's financial benefit from his involvement in the case amounted to at least N$22,4 million.

Esau received traceable financial benefits of close to N$5,5 million from his alleged role in the matter, the state is alleging as well.

The prosecutor general has been given time until 18 January to file an opposing affidavit in response to the application of Esau and Hatuikulipi.

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