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Fishrot paymaster’s property fight continues

2023-09-21  Maria Amakali

Fishrot paymaster’s property fight continues

Fishrot’s self-proclaimed “paymaster” and lawyer Maren de Klerk re-filed his application, where he is fighting against the seizure of his money and that of his law firm by the State.

De Klerk is seeking an order, setting aside the court’s preservation orders against N$1.8 million that were in his bank account and N$4.6 million belonging to his law firm, De Klerk, Horn and Coetzee Legal Practitioners Inc. The orders were issued on 2 December 2022.

De Klerk’s application was initially filed in March; however, yesterday, on his request, High Court Judge Boas Usiku removed the case from the court’s roll and deemed it finalised.

This was after De Klerk’s lawyer Borris Erasmus, in a status report, indicated that on Friday, they filed another application under the case in which the prosecutor general is seeking a final preservation order against the funds. 

According to documents filed by the prosecutor general, Martha Imalwa, there is a reasonable belief that the funds in the two bank accounts were the spoils of the Fishrot scheme.

Imalwa said investigations have revealed that a total of N$81.8 million meant for governmental objectives was misappropriated and distributed to individuals and entities by De Klerk through his personal bank account and that of his law firm.

In his fight against the order, De Klerk claims that when the court prematurely granted the preservation order of 2 November 2022, he was not served as stipulated by the law. 

De Klerk claims he earned the money in his bank account for legal services he rendered to then-attorney general Sacky Shanghala and businessman James Hatuikulipi, who are both awaiting trial in the sprawling fraud and racketeering case. 

He said in March 2017, he was under Shanghala’s instructions as a lawyer to manage the Swapo election campaign. 

“I had no reason to doubt the legality or otherwise the instructions of the attorney general… I received the funds from various companies, which were then paid out by me to certain individuals and entities as instructed by the attorney general and Mr Hatuikulipi,” said De Klerk in an affidavit.

He said it was not until the breaking of the Fishrot scandal documentary televised on Al Jazeera that he realised that the funds might have emanated from illegal activities.

“But I submit that this does not prevent me from charging fees for the work which I have lawfully done on the instructions of the attorney general,” said De Klerk.

He has admitted to having “unwittingly” committed various crimes connected to the Fishrot saga.

The lawyer, who fled to South Africa soon after the Fishrot allegations became public, was in June granted bail of R50 000 with conditions in the Paarl Magistrate’s Court in the Western Cape. The Namibian government is trying to extradite him to stand trial here.

De Klerk must be back in court on 25 September when the hearing on his extradition to Namibia will commence.

De Klerk, Hatuikulipi and Shanghala, alongside Pius Mwatelulo, Ricardo Gustavo, former fisheries minister Bernhardt Esau, Tamson Hatuikulipi, Mike Nghipunya, Nigel van Wyk, Otneel Shuudifonya and Phillipus Mwapopi, as well as Icelandic executives Ingvar Júlíusson, Egill Helgi Árnason and Adalsteinn Helgason, are awaiting trial.

The group is expected to stand trial on charges, ranging from theft to racketeering, fraud, bribery, corruptly using the office for gratification, accepting gratification, money laundering, tax evasion and conspiring to commit corruption.

The prosecution is alleging that the Samherji directors corruptly paid at least N$103.6 million in bribes to Esau and his co-accused so they could get a competitive advantage in securing horse mackerel quotas in Namibia.

This allegedly took place between 2014 and 2019.

The trial is scheduled to start on 2 October.

-mamakali@nepc.com.na

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2023-09-21  Maria Amakali

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