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Icelanders’ Fishrot extradition hits a snag

2023-04-14  Maria Amakali

Icelanders’ Fishrot extradition hits a snag

Namibian authorities cannot request for the extradition of Icelandic companies’ executives, alleged to have bribed incarcerated politicians and business people to gain access to Namibia’s fishing quotas, when investigations have not yet been finalised.

This is the sentiment of Prosecutor General (PG) Martha Imalwa as contained in court documents filed in March, in the case where she is asking the court for a final preservation order against the assets of the Fishrot accused and their entities.

In the latest application, Imalwa is asking the court to grant her an opportunity to file additional documents explaining the status of the extradition process of the Icelandic executives; Ingvar Juliusson, Egill Helgi Arnason, and Adelsteinn Helgason, for their alleged illegal dealings in their personal capacities and on behalf of Esja Holding, Mermaria Seafood Namibia, Saga Seafood, Heinaste Investment, Saga Investment, and Esja Investment. The PG also wants to know why the process has been delayed.

Additionally, Imalwa is requesting an opportunity to shed some light on how evidence was obtained and handled from Iceland and handed over to the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC).

She has acknowledged there have been delays in finalising the State’s formal extradition request to Iceland in order to have the executives extradited to Namibia to answer for their alleged crimes. 

“In order to advance the extradition of the foreign directors, I undertook a trip to Iceland in June 2022 to engage with the local prosecuting authorities,” said Imalwa.

During that meeting, Imalwa said issues of extradition, logistical arrangements
for Icelandic witnesses to travel to
Namibia, as well as the ongoing investigations, were discussed. 


Outstanding investigations

According to Imalwa, the outstanding investigations include determining the real financial loss Namibia suffered as a result of the criminal scheme, and verification of information provided by one of the accused, Ricardo Gustavo during his bail application in the High Court. This verification will be made with the Angolan government and a request for mutual legal assistance was made in January. 

“However, the evidence which was transmitted from Angola was not
properly authenticated. This was therefore returned to Angola for that purpose,” said Imalwa.

Meanwhile, the Namibia Revenue Agency (NamRa) is yet to provide further details to the ACC in relation to the companies’ Value Added Tax offences the State has alleged against the foreign companies for the years between 2012 to 2015 and 2019 to 2020. Furthermore, additional investigations into the companies’ income taxes declaration will be conducted as preliminary findings indicated document falsification.

This, Imalwa said would likely take up to 18 weeks to finalise.

The preliminary findings for the years 2016 to 2018 indicate that Mermaria Seafood Namibia in 2016 overdeclared financial records by N$97.7 million and under-declared by N$61.5 million in 2017. In 2018, the company apparently made an over-declaration of over N$84.9 million. In 2018, Saga Seafood recorded an over-declaration of N$286 million.

Esja Fishing on the other hand did not declare any exports during the periods in question despite having exported fish valued at N$95.2 million.

Imalwa added that the Bank of Namibia has independently conducted investigations into the dealings of the companies’ fishing vessel, M/V Heinaste, through which they conducted much of the fishing activities as part of the corrupt scheme. She said this information is yet to be evaluated and will form part of the extradition request.

Once all the evidence has been obtained, evaluated, and incorporated into the State’s case, then a supporting affidavit to accompany the extradition request can be finalised, said Imalwa.

“… the extradition request must be accompanied by the indictment. Once the indictment has been transmitted, it cannot thereafter be amended to include new offences against the foreign defendants,” Imalwa explained.

Although the foreign directors were initially indicted alongside former fisheries minister Bernhard Esau, former justice minister Sackeus Shanghala, James Hatuikulipi, Tamson Hatuikulipi, Ricardo Gustavo, Pius Mwatelulo, Mike Nghipunya, Otneel Shuudifonya, Phillipus Mwapopi and Nigel van Wyk, the court ordered for their removal from the list in April 2021. 

At the time, the court said they needed to be removed because they had not yet been arrested and had not yet appeared before the court.

The group faces a handful of criminal charges for allegedly corruptly receiving payments of at least N$103.6 million to allow Icelandic fishing companies to secure access to horse mackerel quotas in Namibia. The State alleges the fishing quotas to which Icelandic companies had gained access had supposedly been allocated “for governmental objectives in the public interest”.

They also face criminal charges for allegedly channelling millions in funds from Fishcor through law firms to their bank accounts. They are due in court on 2 October 2023.

For Imalwa’s application, Judge Orben Sibeya yesterday postponed the case to 8 June for the allocation of possible hearing dates.

2023-04-14  Maria Amakali

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