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Fishrot accused ‘handpicked’ for Fishcor roles

2022-01-28  Roland Routh

Fishrot accused ‘handpicked’ for Fishcor roles

Roland Routh

The appointments of James Hatuikulipi and Mike Nghipunya as chairperson and CEO of the Fishing Corporation of Namibia (Fishcor), respectively, were done unprocedurally and not in line with the provisions of the law, a leading investigator into the Fishrot matter claimed yesterday.

Anti-Corruption Commission chief investigator Andreas Kanyangela was testifying during the ongoing bail hearing of former minister of justice Sacky Shanghala, Hatuikulipi, Nghipunya, Pius Mwatelulo, Otneel Shuudifonya and Phillipus Mwapopi before Windhoek High Court Judge Shafimana Ueitele.

He substantiated his claim by saying Hatuikulipi was appointed directly by former fisheries minister Bernhard Esau, while the Fisheries and Marine Resources Act stipulates that the chairperson was to be selected by the members of the board themselves, and not by the minister. 

He added that their investigations proved that an email sent by Shanghala to Esau pushed for the appointment of Hatuikulipi. 

The email read: “I believe that James Hatuikulipi is the perfect person for the chairmanship of Fishcor, and he is what we are looking for.”

In May 2014, Esau offered Hatuikulipi the position for a period of three years, and extended it for another three years in 2017. Hatuikulipi then forwarded the appointment letter to Shanghala, his cousin Tamson (Fitty) Hatuikulipi and former representative of the Samherji Group, who benefitted immensely from the Fishrot scandal, Jóhannes Stefánsson. 

Kanyangela said, after the appointment of Hatuikulipi, the latter wasted no time in convincing the other board members to appoint Nghipunya - who at that stage was the acting CEO of Fishcor, as substantive CEO - which was the first step in the plan to hijack the fishing industry. 

He further told the judge that at that stage, the fisheries minister did not have the power to allocate quotas to non-fishing rights holders such as Fishcor. That’s when they hatched the plan to amend the Fisheries Act to allow the minister to allocate quotas at the minister’s whim, which opened the door for Fishrot. 

Shanghala, who at that stage was still at the helm of the Law Reform and Development Commission, then prepared the amendment, which was tabled before Cabinet.  The amendment was framed as such that it provided that the minister is empowered to allocate Fishcor 50 000 metric tonnes of horse mackerel annually, as well as other fish species like hake. Fishcor then entered into usage agreements with fishing entities associated with the Samherji Group from Iceland, as well as other entities.

According to Kanyangela, it was agreed that the entities would pay 25% of the usage fee in Namibia to Namgomar Pesca Namibia, which they brought into operation to steer the process, with the rest to be paid in Dubai to a company belonging to Hatuikulipi called Tundavala Investments. 

From there, he said, payments were made to Celax Investments, which belonged to fugitive lawyer Marèn de Klerk, who in turn distributed the ill-gotten proceeds among the other Fishrot accused.

According to the State, more than N$317 million was misappropriated and divided between the accused. 

The six men together with Esau, Ricardo Gustavo (on bail) and Tamson and Nigel van Wyk, are facing more than 40 counts including 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

It is alleged by the State that they corruptly received payments to give a competitive advantage to Icelandic fishing company Samherji in securing access to horse mackerel quotas in Namibia. 

Also on the list of people added to the charges is lawyer De Klerk. The State is yet to extradite De Klerk from South Africa, and Icelandic nationals Ingvar Júlíusson, Egill Helgi Árnason and Aðalsteinn Helgason. The State alleges that all the accused acted in common purpose. The matter continues today, and the accused remain in custody.   

2022-01-28  Roland Routh

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