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Fishrot accused had enough time to prepare – Judge

2023-12-06  Roland Routh

Fishrot accused had enough time to prepare – Judge

High Court Acting Judge Moses Chinhengo yesterday refused to entertain another postponement in the Fishrot saga requested by one of the accused - former attorney general and justice minister Sakeus Shanghala.

The trial was set down for plea and trial by an order of the judge in November. However, Shanghala, whose lawyers withdrew on Monday made the application on his own behalf and that of James Hatuikulipi and Pius Mwatelulo. 

Shanghala’s former legal representatives, Murorua Kurz Kasper Inc, announced their withdrawal from the case through a letter sent to the State and the lawyers of their co-accused in the matter.

Ed Marondedze for the state bemoaned the sudden withdrawal, saying the lawyers did not even provide reasons for their

Shanghala, however, in a lengthy written statement to the court said they cannot afford to pay for the services of the lawyers as they were left destitute by the restraint order on their assets. 

He told the court he is in no position to plead to the charges against him as he is without legal representation which is a fundamental right guaranteed in the Namibian Constitution. 

“Our considerable funds are subject to an extensive restraint order granted to the prosecutor general who applied for it. Currently, we are fighting to have our legal fees paid from our assets,” he narrated. 

While he is sympathetic to their plight, the judge said the reality is that they were given disclosure of the docket in 2021 already which is a reasonable time in which to prepare for their trial. Judge Chinhengo said the sad truth is that there is no assurance that the accused will obtain funds on the path they have taken, and it will be against the doctrine of speedy trial to have the matter postponed any further. 

The State is ready, he said, and therefore there is no reason why the trial could not commence. The taking of a plea, he said, signals the formal start of a trial and the accused would be allowed to find legal representation in due course. 

A further delay is not in the interest of justice, Judge Chinhengo stated, adding that he is not swayed by the arguments of Shanghala that he would suffer irreparable harm if the trial commenced. 

Marondedze then started to put the charges to the accused to which they will plead today.

Shanghala, James Hatuikulipi, Pius Mwatelulo, Ricardo Gustavo, former fisheries minister Bernard Esau, Tamson Hatuikulipi, Mike Nghipunya, Otneel Shuudifonya, Phillipus Mwapopi and Nigel van Wyk are charged with corruptly receiving payments of at least N$300 million to give a competitive advantage to Icelandic fishing company Samherji in securing access to horse mackerel quotas in Namibia. 

Nghipunya, Shuudifonya and Mwapopi are represented by Milton Engelbrecht, Esau by Florian Beukes, Tamson and Van Wyk by Mbanga Siyomunji while Shanghala, James, Mwatelulo and Gustavo are unrepresented.

They are facing more than 40 counts comprising racketeering, contravening the Anti-Corruption Act, conspiracy, corruptly using an office to receive gratification, fraud, theft, and money laundering, as well as defeating or obstructing the course of justice. 

Also, on the list of people to be added to the charges is lawyer Marén de Klerk, who is charged as a representative of Celax Investments, which was allegedly used as the conduit to funnel millions of dollars from Fishcor to the bank accounts of the accused. 

The State is yet to extradite De Klerk from South Africa, as well as Icelandic nationals Egill Helgi Arnason, Ingvar Juliusson, and Helgason Adelsteinn. 



2023-12-06  Roland Routh

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