Fishrot accused Tamson ‘Fitty’ Hatuikulipi yesterday told the Windhoek High Court that cash payments he received from Icelandic fishing company, Samherji, came from consultancy work he did for them.
Hatuikulipi, who was arrested in 2019, is seeking release on bail based on new facts before acting judge David Munsu.
According to Hatuikulipi, he met Fishrot whistleblower Jóhannes Stefánsson during 2011 at a Windhoek hotel, through a former schoolmate only identified as Norberth.
He said Stefánsson told him that his employer, the Samherji Group of companies, want to enter the Namibian fishing industry and looking for people to work with them.
He said that Stefánsson told him he lost about US$2.5 million because of alcohol and substance abuse and was looking for ways to repair his reputation.
He further said that Stefánsson later introduced him to other management members of Samherji, namely Ingvar Júlíusson and Aðalsteinn Helgason.
During a follow-up meeting with the executives, he was shown a profile of Samherji’s operations and then during a subsequent meeting enquired about the possibility of entering into catching agreements with new fishing rights holders.
He said that the Samherji executives asked him to introduce them to new rights holders and to convince them to partner and enter into catching agreements with Samherji on a long-term basis.
He said he agreed to assist them.
This, he said, was followed by a memorandum of understanding between him and an entity called Katla Fishing, which was the subsidiary of Samherji at that stage in December 2011.
Eventually, he said, they entered into more specific consultancy agreements between Katla and his entities Erongo Clearing and Forwarding and JTH Trading.
He further said his initial task was to identify the new rights holders and convince them to sign with Samherji.
It was not an easy task, he said, because other operators also courted the new rights holders and were bad mouthing Samherji.
He said he approached his cousin and fellow Fishrot accused James Hatuikulupi to help him as James at that stage had a vast network and commercial experience.
During the beginning of 2012, he introduced James to the Samherji executives.
The executives told them that to deploy a fishing vessel, they should have at least three new rights holders who can sign long-term contracts.
Through hard work, Hatuikulipi said, he and James managed to convince two new rights holders to sign a 12-month usage and catching agreement with Samherji.
The 12-month agreement, he said, was to evaluate the capacity of Samherji and to build trust.
A vessel fitted with a Namibian crew was deployed in February 2012.
He continued that Samherji organised a trip to Iceland for the new rights holders that signed usage agreements to observe its operations firsthand.
Thereafter during September 2013, the new rights holders signed long-term agreements with Samherji and during 2014, he managed to convince a third new rights holder to sign a long-term agreement with Samherji.
He said his fees were paid directly into his entities, Erongo Clearing and Forwarding and JTH Trading.
He said he paid James from the money he was paid as the latter worked for him.
According to him, N$27 million was paid into the account of JTH Trading between 2016 and December 2017 by Mermaria Seafoods and N$20 million between March 2018 and September 2019.
He further said N$29 million was paid into the account of his entity Erongo Clearing and Forwarding between 2014 and 2018 from Mermaria Seafoods.
All of the payments were for consultancy services rendered.
He also informed the court that Stefánsson asked him to explore new avenues.
This, he said, resulted in him contacting Ricardo Gustavo, whom he knew was involved in the fishing industry in Angola.
This resulted in Samherji securing usage agreements in Angola, he said.
Furthermore, because of cross-border exchange regulations at the time, Gustavo was struggling to sell his products and he sold him his list of clients for which he was paid a fee of N$400 000.
Hatuikulipi, together with his father-in-law and former minister of fisheries Bernhardt Esau, Gustavo (on bail), former justice minister Sacky Shanghala, former Fishcor board chairperson James Hatuikulipi, former Fishcor CEO Mike Nghipunya, Pius Mwatelulo, Otneel Shuudifonya, Phillipus Mwapopi 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 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 Marén 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 all the accused remain in custody.
He is represented by Florian Beukes and Richard Metcalfe, while Ezekiel Ipinge and Ed Marondedze represent the prosecution.