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Esau resumes evidence in bail hearing

2023-04-13  Roland Routh

Esau resumes evidence in bail hearing

Former minister of fisheries Bernhard Esau yesterday resumed his evidence in his bail hearing after the State finished its cross-examination of Nigel van Wyk.

Before Van Wyk finished his cross-examination, he told the court he had no idea the money he was paid as a salary and to oversee the operations of Oleya Investments – the company of James Hatuikulipi and former justice minister Sakeus Shanghala – where he was employed, was the proceeds of unlawful activities. 

“Had I known that, I would have confronted my employers and possibly resigned,” he said when Ezekiel Ipinge for the State queried him about the origins of the funds paid into his bank account. 

When Ipinge further pressed and told him that after allegations of Fishrot surfaced his bosses were implicated in the scandal, Van Wyk was adamant the charges were only allegations and insisted everyone has the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

He further accused the prosecutor general’s office of being unfair in prosecuting him and said they are guilty of “selective prosecution”.

Van Wyk further denied approaching the PG with an offer to plead guilty to obstructing the course of justice in return for having the more serious charges of fraud and money laundering withdrawn. He remained adamant it was the State that approached him with the offer, which he claimed to have declined in a bid to prove his innocence.

Meanwhile, Esau yesterday continued with his denial that he had anything to do with the Fishrot scheme and said that everything he did, including the agreement with Angola as well as signing off on the governmental objective scheme, was above board.

According to Esau, he was not alone in the decision to use fishing quotas to achieve government’s objective of eradicating hunger and assisting the fishing industry, arguing that the decision was a collective conclusion by Cabinet. The former fisheries minister maintained his role was to facilitate the process on behalf of Cabinet.

Esau and Nigel van Wyk are asking the High Court to release them on bail on new facts after both had their previous bail applications refused.

They are charged alongside Shanghala, former Fishcor chief executive officer Mike Nghipunya, former Investec Namibia (now Ninety-Nine) CEO James Hatuikulipi, his nephew Tamson Hatuikulipi, former director of Namgomar Pesca Namibia director Ricardo Gustavo, Pius Mwatelulo, Otneel Shuudifonya and Phillipus Mwapopi. They are charged with several counts of fraud, racketeering, money laundering, contravening the Anti-Corruption Act, theft, tax evasion and their alternatives.

It is alleged they conspired to change Namibia’s fisheries legislation to provide unfettered access to Namibia’s rich fishing resources to international fishing conglomerate, Samherji from Iceland, in exchange for bribes of millions of Namibia dollars.

2023-04-13  Roland Routh

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