Chief investigator of the Anti-Corruption Commission Andreas Kanyangela has dismissed claims that the arrests of the Fishrot accused, who were taken into custody on the eve of election day in 2019, was politically motivated.
Former ministers Bernhard Esau and Sacky Shanghala, Tamson ‘Fitty’ Hatuikulipi, Ricardo Gustavo, James Hatuikulipi and Pius Mwatelulo were arrested on the eve of the 2019 presidential elections, following reports that an Icelandic fishing company, Samherji, reportedly secured access to horse mackerel quotas in Namibia by paying bribes to politicians and businessmen between 2012 and 2018.
South African advocate Vas Soni yesterday accused Kanganyela of deliberately arresting the Fishrot accused on the eve of election day, saying the arrests were timed and coincided with the National Assembly and Presidential elections to score cheap political points. Kanyangela, however, denied this and said they arrested the accused on the day in question because they had enough evidence to charge them in a court of law.
This exchange came at the end of Kanyangela’s cross-examination by Milton Engelbrecht on behalf of Otneel Shuudifonya and Phillipus Mwapopi. Soni then asked to reopen his cross-examination of Kanganyela, to which the State objected.
Kanganyela yesterday wrapped up his testimony in which he strongly reiterated his opposition to the release of any of the applicants on bail, while still citing that they are a flight risk with money in Dubai to live a decent lifestyle. Shanghala, Hatuikulipi, Mwatelulo, Mike Nghipunya, Shuudifonya and Mwapopi lodged an application for bail in November last year.
The hearing is now in its fourth month, with a little hiatus during January. Windhoek High Court Judge Shafimana Ueitele, after hearing from both Soni and Cliff Lutibezi on behalf of the State, granted Soni the opportunity. Soni bitterly complained to the judge about the conduct of Lutibezi who demanded proof of a proposition he made to Kanganyela about Jason Iyambo being found not guilty on a charge of bribery in the magistrate’s court. Soni was adamant that he felt humiliated by the request because as a legal practitioner of many years, his word was never taken into doubt. The proposition he made was that Iyambo, who was convicted of defeating the course of justice on a guilty plea in the magistrate’s court, was in fact discharged on a section 174 application on the charge that he tried to bribe an ACC official. Lutibezi claimed there was a misunderstanding as Iyambo was not discharged for a lack of evidence, but because no evidence was led against him. The judge then said it is basically the same thing, and ruled that Soni may open his cross-examination to question Kanyangela on that issue. Chief of the Windhoek Correctional Facility Veikko Armas then took the stand, and basically countered the claims of the applicants that the conditions are not conducive for proper consultations, and also that the clinic at the facility is not equipped to handle their particular illnesses. Shanghala claimed he suffers from hypertension, asthma and sleep apnea. James Hatuikulipi claimed to be suffering from hereditary hypertension, and said he requires a special prescription not available at State facilities as well as a special diet. Armas, however, shot this down and said the clinic supplies a wide range of medicines. Should any inmate require a special kind of tablet that they do not have, such inmate is free to source it from outside. While relatives are no longer allowed to bring items from outside, they can pay money into the inmate’s account at the prison’s commissary, from where inmates can acquire whatever they need. Should the commissary not have, they will purchase it from outside. Armas then made mention of the Fishrot accused buying from the commissary in groups. For instance, he said, Mwatelulo will buy on behalf of Shanghala and James, while Shuudifonya will buy on behalf of Nghipunya and Mwapopi. 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), Tamson Hatuikulipi 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, and defeating or obstructing the course of justice. 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 Marèn 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 was postponed to 11 March for the submission of arguments.
Seeking bail… Some of the Fishrot accused during an earlier court appearance.