WINDHOEK – No Namibian approached the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) with information on what has now turned into an international fishing bribery scandal, which has resulted in the arrest of local politicians and businessmen.
The anti-graft agency yesterday defended itself against public criticism that it has failed to act on time.
“It is rather interesting if not shameful, that to date there is no single person in Namibia who has come forward to report or provide ACC with information relating to the matter under investigation,” the ACC said in a media statement.
The public has been outraged by ACC’s approach towards corruption, particularly when big fish and influential people are involved.
Last month, members of the public thronged streets of Windhoek to demonstrate over the unfolding ‘Fishrot’ scandal implicating former fisheries minister Bernhard Esau, ex-justice minister Sacky Shanghala, former MD of Investec Asset Management Namibia, James Hatuikulipi, his cousin Tamson ‘Fitty’ Hatuikulipi, who is also the son-in-law of Esau and Ricardo Gustavo, a senior manager at Investec Asset Management Namibia. Pius Mwatelulo was also arrested.
The group reportedly received corrupt payments of at least N$103,6 million to allow Icelandic fishing company Samherji secure access to horse mackerel quotas in Namibia. According to media reports, Samherji’s CEO and biggest shareholder, Þorsteinn Már Baldvinsson, authorised the bribe payments.
It is, however, after the protest and public pressure that the six suspects were arrested and are currently in police custody.
ACC further accused Namibians of knowing about the corrupt practices in the fishing sector but kept quiet.
“Rather than being patriotic and contribute to the fight against corruption by assisting the ACC to succeed in the investigations of this serious case, some fellow citizens reduced themselves into being critics,” says the statement.
The ACC said it had to rely on information obtained from outside the country, which takes relatively longer and costly to collect. A sworn affidavit from a whistleblower, which has formed part of the investigation, was obtained on 5 June 2019. Johannes Stefansson, who worked for Samherji in Namibia, has now turned whistleblower and has published over 3 000 documents on WikiLeaks exposing the illegal dealings in the fishing industry.
Contrary to the ACC sentiments, the media has intensively been reporting on the fishy dealings within the fishing industry dating to 2014 when then fisheries minister Esau appointed James Hatuikulipi as board chairperson of Fishcor.