Politicians and businessmen who are accused of receiving more than N$130 million in bribes for fishing quotas are likely to face more charges, an investigator of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) said last week.
These new details were revealed during the bail hearing of suspended Fishcor CEO Mike Nghipunya (35) last week in Windhoek Magistrate’s Court.
ACC senior investigating officer Wilhelm Olivier testified in court that they are busy compiling additional charges against Nghipunya and his co-accused.
“These new charges relate to money that was transferred to Sisa Namandje & Co Trust Account and Fine Seafood Trust account from Fishcor,” explained Olivier. Olivier elaborated that N$15 million and N$2.5 million were paid on separate occasions from Fishcor to Sisa Namandje & Co Trust Account. Fishcor again paid N$9 million to Fine Seafood Trust account.
ACC is currently investigating Seaflower Pelagic Processing and the ruling party Swapo for money it received from Fishcor too, according to Olivier. Currently, Nghipunya is charged alongside former fisheries minister Bernhardt Esau, ex-minister of justice Sacky Shanghala, former Investec Namibia managing director James Hatuikulipi, Esau’s son-in-law Tamson Hatuikulipi and Pius ‘Taxa’ Mwatelulo for allegedly channelling payments totalling N$75.6 million to themselves or entities of their choice from Fishcor.
The money allegedly went through Celax Investment Number One and the law firm De Klerk, Horn & Coetzee Inc.
The funds were allegedly laundered between August 2014 and December 2019. Nghipunya and his co-accused are facing three counts, including fraud, contravening the Anti-Corruption Act and corruptly using office for gratification as well as money laundering.
Olivier further testified that money was transferred under the disguise that Fishcor was making payments under ‘governmental objectives’.
Fishcor was allegedly supposed to monetise the fishing quotas for government to achieve its objectives, thus, payments were made to entities such as Namibia Fish Consumption Promotion Trust, ministry of poverty eradication, veterans of the liberation struggle and the ministry of fisheries, the court was informed. “These governmental objectives were misrepresented to Cabinet and Fishcor board did not know of these payments. We have evidence that the accused persons had meetings on how to commit these crimes,” said Olivier.
Olivier testified that only James Hatuikulipi who at the time was Fishcor’s board chairperson, Nghipunya and Esau knew of the transactions. Such payments were allegedly never brought to the attention of the entire board for discussion or approval.
“He (Nghipunya) and James were handpicked by the minister (Esau) for these positions. There is evidence that immediately after their appointments in 2016, the looting of funds started,” said Olivier.
Nghipunya who is fighting to be released on bail has bluntly denied the allegations. Through an affidavit that was read into the record by his lawyer Thabang Phatela, Nghipunya said there is no basis to the allegations against him.
“I fail to understand why I have been charged with these charges. I have never placed my self in the position as CEO of Fishcor to commit any criminal offence. I never had any intention to act unlawful as CEO,” explained Nghipunya.
Phatela while cross examining Olivier, put it to him that Nghipunya acted within the bounds of the law in his capacity as CEO, citing that there was nothing unlawful or improper when Fishcor paid government expenses or governmental objectives.
Phatela explained Nghipunya was simply doing his job and following orders.
“None of the documents contain a clause indicating that Mike as CEO had the right to refuse clear directives from the minister,” noted Phatela.
The hearing is set to continue on Wednesday and Thursday before deputy chief magistrate Ingrid Unengu. The State is represented by deputy prosecutor general Ed Marondedze in the proceedings.