WALVIS BAY - The interim board of the state-owned National Fishing Corporation of Namibia (Fishcor) is assessing the implications of the N$150 million fish factory it bought at Walvis Bay from Etale Properties in 2016.
The Namibian reported in 2018 that Fishcor reportedly overpaid by as much as N$50 million when it acquired the property following the closure of Etale Fishing in 2013.
The property was reportedly valued at N$90 million in 2015, while Etale put the factory up for sale in the same year for N$110 million. However, Fishcor paid N$150 million for the factory. The government entity was expected to pay N$22 million for five years after buying the property.
Apart from the N$50 million paid in 2016, indications are that Fishcor still owes about N$50 million on the deal.
The property was demolished to make way for the N$530 million Seaflower Pelagic Processing (SPP) factory, of which government through Fishcor owns 40% and the African Selection Fishing (ASFN) owns 60%. The property was acquired and subsequently transferred to SPP.
“We are assesing the financial implications of this deal but the board reserved its position on the matter and shall inform the public soon to that regard,” Fishcor board chairperson Heinrich Mihe Gaomab said on Friday. Gaomab then explained that these agreements have ceded and transferred Fishcor’s rights, obligations and title deeds to SPP through third party agreements.
“This include amongst others the property on which the facility of SPP was built and the facility itself, especially since Fishcor holds only 40% shareholding in SPP,” Gaomab explained. “Hence, we remain consistent with our position that as Fishcor, we accordingly distance ourselves from these so-called agreements and are pursuing options, whether legal or otherwise on the termination of these so-called agreements.”
Fishcor is currently embroiled in an international fishing bribery scandal, which has led to the arrests of former fisheries minister Bernhard Esau, former justice minister Sacky Shanghala, former Fishcor board chairperson James Hatuikulipi, suspended CEO Mike Nghipunya, Esau’s son-in-law Tamson Hatuikulipi and Pius Mwatelulo.
A former Investec Asset Management Namibia employee Ricardo Gustavo was also arrested last year. The Anti-Corruption Commission recently said it has concluded their investigations into the Fishcor matter where N$75.6 million was transferred from Fishcor to law firm De Klerk, Horn & Coetzee Inc. during the period August 2014 to December 2019. De Klerk, Horn & Coetzee Inc. allegedly used Celax Investment Number One to distribute the money to individuals and entities linked to the Fishrot accused.
Meanwhile, Goamab said the board is considering rebranding Fishcor in order to restore the tarnished image of the company, which has been tainted by the Fishrot scandal. “Reflection on the name is outdated and tainted, thus a new brand name is required. We will also assess the cost effectiveness of the brand and its value to the country,” he said. Gaomab also added the board will also assess operational efficiency, litigation costs and leadership effectiveness.
SPP willing to negotiate
Meanwhile, SPP General Manager, Adolf Burger said they are willing to meet government halfway and relook the Fishcor SPP deal, despite the fact that the board is exploring their options to terminate the contract. “We have always been willing to meet with government and Fishcor board to renegotiate the deal as our intentions were always clear from the start.
ASFN certainly do not want their investment to go to waste as the livelihoods of our employees also depend on the outcome of this, he said. He added that the Fishcor directors have a fiduciary responsibility towards SPP and were advised as such at the last meeting.
“We are still willing and have made it known to the new board, as the livelihoods of our employees also depend on this,” he said. However, Gaomab remained evasive when asked if the Fishcor board is willing to renegotiate the deal seeing that the contract with SPP is legal and binding.