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Geingob trashes corruption claims

2021-04-06  Maria Amakali

Geingob trashes corruption claims
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President Hage Geingob has vehemently denied claims linking him to the widely publicised Fishrot scandal. 

The Presidency at the weekend maintained there was no iota of evidence linking the Head of State to corruption in the fishing sector. 

“In fact, President Geingob has directed reforms of the fishing sector for greater transparency through a public declaration of fishing rights’ owners and beneficiaries and for benefits to accrue to a larger section of Namibians,” the presidency said in a strongly-worded statement following an article by international media agency Al Jazeera, titled ‘Namibian President caught in new fishing corruption allegations’.

“The articles are about nothing – and are a mere collection of petty and sensational inferences that have nothing about a popularly elected president. Aided by Namibians, one would expect that the article would at least be accurate with regard to what President Geingob has done to fight corruption,” read the statement. 

The presidency highlighted that in a bid of transparency and accountability, Geingob and First Lady Monica Geingos declared their assets publicly in 2015 as a solid demonstration to lead by example in the fight against corruption. In the same year, Geingob cancelled the inflated multi-billion dollar airport tender. 

In 2018, Geingob removed fisheries minister Bernard Esau and justice minister Sacky Shanghala from cabinet in the wake of corruption allegations.

The two ministers and three of their co-accused reportedly received corrupt payments of at least N$103.6 million to allow Icelandic fishing company Samherji secure access to horse mackerel quotas in Namibia. 

The matter came to light after Jóhannes Stefánsson, the former general manager of Samherji in Namibia, blew the whistle on the scam. According to media reports, Samherji’s CEO and biggest shareholder Þorsteinn Már Baldvinsson authorised the bribe payments.  

The other three accused are former managing director of Investec Asset Management Namibia James Hatuikulipi; his cousin Tamson ‘Fitty’ Hatuikulipi, who is also the son-in-law of Esau, and Ricardo Gustavo, a senior manager at Investec Asset Management Namibia, currently on suspension. Pius Mwatelulo is the sixth accused.

Gustavo was also the sole director of a company called Nengomar Namibia, which was used to divert the quotas to Samherji. 

According to information available, Esau and Shanghala forged a bilateral cooperation agreement with Angola’s former fisheries minister, Victoria de Barros, her son Joao de Barros and one Antonius Fransisco for the allocation of quotas to one another. 

Two entities were then established: Nengomar Pesca in Angola and Nengomar Namibia, which were used to allocate the quotas. 

According to the charges, the quotas from Namibia to Angola were then illegally sold to Samherji contrary to the spirit of the agreement. 

The fraudulent scheme came to light in November 2019 after news channel Al Jazeera published its ‘Fishrot files’ documentary, resulting in the arrests of Esau, Shanghala and their cohorts. They remain in custody after several unsuccessful bail applications and appeals.  

In the second Fishrot case, referred to as the Fishcor matter, Esau, Shanghala, Tamson, James, former CEO of Fishcor Mike Nghipunya and Mwatelulo are facing charges ranging from racketeering to fraud and money laundering. 

Two further accused, Otneel Shuudifonya and Phillipus Mwapopi, were added in December 2020 to the indictment. They are accused of illegally benefitting from N$75.6 million earmarked for government objectives through the State-owned Fishcor. 

The accused are expected to make their first appearance in the High court this month after the prosecutor general decided they need to stand trial and answer to the allegations levelled against them. 

In a highly confidential affidavit disposed by Windhoek lawyer Marèn de Klerk, which has since been leaked to the public, the lawyer linked Geingob to the corruption allegations.

In his affidavit, De Klerk claimed James Hatuikulipi and Shanghala were among the key role players in the scheme to set up a structure, dubbed ‘Ndilimani Project’ that would deal with the “management and distribution of contributions paid to Swapo and the government by their supporters”. 

Shanghala and Hatuikulipi, according to De Klerk, had allegedly claimed to have been mandated by Geingob. 

The presidency has once more denied such allegations. -

2021-04-06  Maria Amakali

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