The stench of the biggest corruption scandal in the country, dubbed Fishrot, continues to linger as more people and more companies have become entangled in it.
The corruption scandal has led to the arrest of two government high-ranking officials.
During yesterday’s parliamentary session, leader of the Landless People’s Movement (LPM) Bernadus Swartbooi questioned Minister of Finance and Public Enterprises Iipumbu Shiimi about N$1.3 billion that has allegedly gone missing at telecommunications giant, MTC.
Swartbooi claims that the money was funnelled out of MTC’s accounts and has allegedly been used to cover the legal expenses of the lawyers representing the accused persons in the Fishrot case.
He contends that a systems administrator uncovered this irregularity.
“This is a clear indication of the illegal use of public funds, and even possible money laundering,” he argued.
“Could the minister explain why a government parastatal is involved in financing the legal bill of high-profile individuals, if he is aware of such an operation being conducted from the pockets of taxpayers’ funds via MTC,” Swartbooi requested.
The politician argued that it has become a recurring pattern within the government that parastatals are utilised to fund the illicit activities of political elites.
This, he alleges, includes substantial amounts allocated for subsistence and travel allowances for some ministers, all in the pursuit of personal gain at the expense of hardworking Namibian taxpayers.
Shiimi came under fire a few months ago after he was questioned about ministers claiming S&T from parastatals resorting under them.
Swartbooi asked: “Are you able to definitively state that taxpayers’ money at parastatals under your auspices are not used to finance the trials of the Fishrot accused, or any other trials of any other high-ranking officials, nor for the payment of “hush” money to potential State witnesses with a view to undermine the State’s case against the accused persons?”
Approached for comment, Anti-Corruption Commission director Paulus Noa stated that he was unaware of these allegations.
“I lack any information on the matter, and I’m hesitant to comment. I believe that those in Parliament should provide more information,” he remarked.
Wilson Shikoto, the finance ministry’s spokesperson, said he cannot give comment until the matter is formally addressed to the ministry.
“Typically, they will forward questions to us, and we will respond. Until we receive those questions, I’m unable to provide any commentary,” he stated.
MTC’s chief human capital and corporate affairs officer Tim Ekandjo said he only just learned of the N$1.3 billion statement and will revert to this paper today.
Meanwhile, the Fishrot accused are still awaiting their bail hearing. Former Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Bernhard Esau, and one of his co-accused, Nigel van Wyk, are scheduled to present their closing arguments in the Windhoek High Court on 24 November 2023.
Thus far, only one of the 10 men charged in the Fishrot case has managed to secure bail. However, the High Court judge’s decision to grant Ricardo Gustavo bail in December 2021 was overturned by the Supreme Court in December of the following year. Gustavo has also remained in custody since then.