Trevor Brockerhoff, the lawyer of Fishrot accused Ricardo Gustavo, yesterday gave notice to Windhoek High Court acting Judge Kobus Miller that he will apply for the judge’s recusal from the trial for perceived bias.
He submitted this during the first pre-trial hearing of 10 men and 18 corporate entities accused of plundering Namibia’s fishing resources in exchange for millions of dollars.
According to Brockerhoff, they harbour a reasonable apprehension of bias because of damning remarks Judge Miller made in judgments delivered by him in the Fishrot
“The remarks are of such a manner that it will be detrimental to client’s case,” he told the judge.
Florian Beukes, on behalf of former fisheries minister and accused in the matter Bernhard Esau, told the judge that his client makes common cause with Gustavo and agrees with Brockerhoff’s sentiments.
The judge then ordered the applicants to file their application by no later than 22 February and the State to reply by 14 March and if the applicants wish, they can reply by 18 March. This matter was set down for hearing on 12 April at 09h00.
The case was also remanded to that same date.
Windhoek High Court Judge Christie Liebenberg allocated the matter to Miller early in January after he ordered the two trials, previously known as the Namgomar and the Fishcor matters, be joined and conducted as one trial.
According to the judge, the State has managed to prove former Cabinet ministers and businessmen in the fisheries bribery case, all acted with the same purpose for the benefit of their “criminal enterprise”.
The application was opposed by former justice minister Sacky Shanghala, former Fishcor board chairperson James Hatuikulipi, former Fishcor CEO Mike Nghipunya, Namgomar Pesca Namibia director Ricardo Gustavo, Pius Mwatelulo, Otneel Shuudifonya, Phillipus Mwapopi and Nigel van Wyk.
The group represented by Trevor Brockerhoff, Tinashe Chibwana and James Diedericks argued that the two cases are distinct and are not linked for them to be combined and tried as one.
The two matters at hand are the Namgomar case, in which Esau, Shanghala, James, Tamson Hatuikulipi, Gustavo, Mwatelulo, Van Wyk, Shuudifonya and Mwapopi are charged with corruptly receiving payments of at least N$103.6 million to allow Icelandic fishing company Samherji secure access to horse mackerel quotas in Namibia.
The group, alongside 11 corporate entities and trusts connected to them, are charged with counts of racketeering, fraud, money laundering and other alleged crimes in connection to alleged fishing quota allocations and bribery.
The second case is of Fishcor in which Esau, Shanghala, Tamson, James, Mwatelulo and Nghipunya are facing charges ranging from racketeering to fraud and money laundering.
Also, on the list of people to be added to the charges is lawyer Marén de Klerk, who is charged as a representative of Celax Investments, which was allegedly used as the conduit to funnel millions of dollars from Fishcor to the bank accounts of the accused.
The accused are charged with seven counts of racketeering, 12 counts of contravening the Anti-Corruption Act, four counts of fraud, alternatively theft, and four counts of money laundering.
The State is yet to extradite De Klerk from South Africa and Icelandic nationals Egill Helgi Arnason, Ingvar Juliusson and Helgason Adelsteinn.