Tamson denies ‘plundering’ Namibia’s resources

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Tamson denies ‘plundering’ Namibia’s resources

Roland Routh

Maria Sheya


One of the alleged masterminds of the Fishrot scandal, Tamson Hatuikulipi (43), has denied the assertion by the lower court in his previous failed bail application that he was part of a syndicate that ‘plundered’ Namibia’s resources.

Testifying during his ongoing bail application in the Windhoek High Court last week, Hatuikulipi did not deny his connection to Icelandic fishing company, Samherji, which is accused of paying bribes to politicians and businessmen to gain access to Namibia’s fish.

However, he said his business dealings with Samherji were legitimate, as he introduced several joint ventures that were rights holders to the company. He said he was paid consultation fees because of that.

This, he said, is proven by the discovery disclosed to him and his lawyer Mbanga Siyomunji by the State on 1 June 2023. The discovery contains a multitude of email exchanges.  

Hatuikulipi also dispersed investigating officer Andreas Kanyangela’s previous testimony that he was paid under the guise of consultancy when he did not do the job.

The businessman is applying to be released on bail on supposed new facts after High Court Judge David Munsu agreed to hear the application. The State initially objected to the hearing, citing that the grounds submitted in the notice do not amount to new facts, but are a rehashing of old facts already decided upon.

However, Siyomunji, who is representing Hatuikulipi after his former lawyer withdrew because of a lack of funds, argued that the grounds constitute new facts not heard before. The judge agreed to hear the matter on the condition that Hatuikulipi does not dwell on evidence already before court. 

This is Hatuikulipi’s third attempt to be released on bail after his previous bids failed. He based his new bail application on the grounds that the trial did not start on 2 October, as was envisaged when he made his previous bail application. This, he said, has caused him many hardships, including the withdrawal of his former lawyer because he could not afford to pay him. 

Hatuikulipi further said, through Siyomunji, he has been in custody for four years and six months, which is tantamount to being incarcerated without being convicted of a crime. Siyomunji argued that his client has not picked up any new cases during his time in custody, which amounts to a new fact. 

Hatuikulipi’s financial position has deteriorated to the extent that he is unable to pay rates and taxes on properties he owns, which poses the risk that the properties could be attached to pay for the bills due. He also produced various emails not produced during the previous bail applications, including an email from former executive director of Pupkewitz Holdings, Harold Pupkewitz, in which the latter apparently promised to secure a meeting between representatives of Samherji Group and Bernard Esau, the former fisheries minister and also an accused in the matter. Other email correspondence is between Johannes Steffanson – who turned whistle-blower – and Hatuikulipi and his cousin and fellow accused, James Hatuikulipi. 

State advocate Hesekiel Ipinge objected to the introduction of the emails, saying Hatuikulipi chose which email to bring to court to favour his bail bid. 

Judge Munsu, however, allowed the emails, stating that Ipinge would have a chance to cross-examine Hatuikulipi on the evidence. 

Hatuikulipi also bemoaned the fact that he is not present in his children’s lives to give them guidance, especially his son who is now 12 years old, and needs his guidance as a father. He said his children only started visiting him in November last year, and that he is allowed two visits a month consisting of one hour. This, he said, is not enough to guide them. Further, he said, his children were severely traumatised when they visited him for the first time, and wanted to go with him when he had to leave. 

Hatuikulipi was arrested in 2019 after the Fishrot scandal became public through a report by international media house Al Jazeera, which implicated several high-profile individuals in the looting of Namibia’s fish resources. Former attorney general Sakeus Shanghala and Esau are accused together with the two Hatuikulipis, former CEO of Fishcor Mike Nghipunya, Ricardo Gustavo, Pius Mwatelulo, Nigel van Wyk, Otneel Shuudifonya and Phillipus Mwapopi of corruptly receiving payments of at least N$300 million to give a competitive advantage to Icelandic fishing company Samherji in securing access to horse mackerel quotas in Namibia. 

They are facing more than 40 counts comprising 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. 

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 State is yet to extradite De Klerk from South Africa, as well as Icelandic nationals Egill Helgi Arnason, Ingvar Juliusson and Helgason Adelsteinn.  The hearing is scheduled to continue on 20 August 2024.-rrouth@nepc.com.na