James Hatuikulipi, one of the men at the centre of the Fishrot scandal, is set to stand trial for his alleged attempt to bribe and steal evidence in his ongoing case. The prosecutor general decided to prosecute the former Investec managing director and Fishcor board chairperson alongside his alleged accomplices Jason Iyambo and police reservist Sakaria Kuutondokwa Kokule.
Iiyambo is accused of having offered an ACC investigator a bribe of N$250 000 to hand over the Investec bank cards assigned to Hatuikulipi and another bank card belonging to Pius Mwatelulo.
The group was informed of the prosecutor general’s decision when it made an appearance before Magistrate Venatius Alweendo on Friday in the Windhoek Magistrate’s Court.
According to the prosecutor general’s decision, Hatuikulipi and his co-accused will be standing trial on charges ranging from corruptly giving gratification as an inducement, bribery or alternatively improperly influencing an authorised officer and defeating or obstructing the course of justice.
The prosecutor general further decided the three should be tried in the Windhoek Magistrate’s Court.
Hatuikulipi and his co-accused are expected to appear again in court today for their pre-trial conference.
The charges that Hatuikulipi and his co-accused are facing derive from them allegedly attempting to tamper with ongoing investigations into the N$130 million bribery case.
It is alleged that Iyambo and Kokule worked in cahoots to attain two Investec banking cards issued to Hatuikulipi, who is in police custody.
The two men also wanted one Bank Windhoek card for Omvindi Investment CC issued out to Mwatelulo. In addition, the men required another Bank Windhoek card issued to Mwatelulo for Otuafika Logistics and a document titled ‘Total Allocation’ from the Anti-Corruption Commission of Namibia (ACC).
The two men allegedly promised the investigating officer N$250 000 for the bank cards and documents.
However, the investigating officer went to his superiors at the ACC and reported the bribery incident. The incident allegedly took place on 20 January.
Wants new magistrate
Meanwhile, Hatuikulipi made a second appearance alongside his co-accused ex-ministers Bernhard Esau and Sacky Shanghala, businessman Tamson ‘Fitty’ Hatuikulipi, Ricardo Gustavo and Mwatelulo.
The court postponed the matter after the accused lawyers were not happy with Magistrate Alweendo being the presiding officer and having to decide on the State’s application for a longer postponement for investigations to be concluded in the case.
The lawyers argued that Alweendo was the magistrate who issued search warrants last year and he was a respondent in the High Court case in which the accused were challenging the legality of those search warrants.
The search warrants issued by Alweendo were used in the ACC’s investigations into the case.
They further argued that their clients deserve a fair trial and do not think they will get it if their case is heard by an officer who already dealt with the matter before.
Before postponing the case to 4 September, Alweendo informed the court that the matter will be forwarded to the Magistrate’s Commission for decision.
Hatuikulipi and his co-accused have been in police custody since their arrest in November 2019 when it was reported an Icelandic fishing company Samherji reportedly secured access to horse mackerel quotas in Namibia by paying bribes of over N$103 million to politicians and businessmen between 2012 and 2018.
The accused are represented by Trevor Brokerhoff, Jermaine Muchali, Tinashe Chibwana, Kalundu Kamwi and Floriene Beukes.
Back in the dock… Businessmen and politicians implicated in the fisheries bribery scandal.
Photo: Emmency Nuukala