Namibia: Ex-Ministers Charged With Bribery of N$103 Million

Former Cabinet ministers Bernhard Esau and Sacky Shanghala and three of their co-accused in the ‘Fishrot’ case received corrupt payments of at least N$103,6 million from Icelandic-owned companies that wanted to get access to Namibia’s fish resources, the state is alleging in one of the charges faced by the two ex-ministers and fellow accused following their arrest last week.

Esau (61), Shanghala (42) and four co-accused – former Investec Asset Management Namibia managing director James Hatuikulipi (44), suspended Investec Namibia clients director Ricardo Gustavo (44), Esau’s son-in-law Tamson ‘Fitty’ Hatuikulipi (38) and Pius ‘Taxa’ Mwatelulo (31) – were informed of the charges they are facing when they made a delayed appearance in the dock in the Windhoek Magistrate’s Court on Friday.

According to the charges that magistrate Linus Samunzala read out to them, Esau is charged with a count of corruptly using his office or position as minister of fisheries and marine resources to obtain gratification in the form of awarding a quota for up to 55 000 tonnes of horse mackerel to the company Namgomar Pesca between 2014 and 2019. Shanghala, James and ‘Fitty’ Hatuikulipi and Gustavo are charged with conspiring with Esau during the period from 2014 to 2019 to commit the offence of using an office or position to obtain gratification.

The state is also alleging that Esau, Shanghala, James and ‘Fitty’ Hatuikulipi and Gustavo solicited, accepted or agreed to accept payments totalling not less than N$103 636 448,75 from the Icelandic-owned companies Mermaria Seafood Namibia and Esja Seafood during the period from 2014 to 2019 to secure a continuous allocation of fishing quotas for the two companies.

In a fourth charge, Esau, Shanghala, James and ‘Fitty’ Hatuikulipi and Gustavo are accused of having defrauded the Namibian government by misrepresenting that Esau was duly authorised to sign a fisheries cooperation agreement with the Angolan government in June 2014 and that the agreement was meant to benefit the citizens of Namibia and Angola, whereas Esau was not authorised to sign the agreement, the deal was aimed at benefiting the five accused, and the purpose of the agreement was to circumvent the Marine Resources Act to enable themselves to secure fishing quotas.

The five accused are also charged with fraud or tax evasion committed between 2014 and 2019 for allegedly misrepresenting to the Ministry of Finance and the Directorate of Inland Revenue that Namgomar Pesca Namibia generated revenue of N$14,1 million from 2014 to 2019, whereas the company actually generated revenue of N$40,1 million.

It is alleged that Gustavo was the sole director of Namgomar Pesca Namibia, of which the Angolan company Namgomar Pesca Limitada is the sole shareholder.

The former Angolan fisheries minister Victoria de Barros Neto is alleged to have been the majority shareholder of Namgomar Pesca Limitada. All six of the accused – Mwatelulo included – face a count of money laundering, in which it is alleged that dummy invoices were issued and money transferred between various bank accounts to conceal or disguise the source and ownership of the money, which the accused allegedly knew formed part of the proceeds of unlawful activities.

LAWYERS ARRESTED

After being informed of the charges the six accused were also told that they had to remain in police custody over the weekend, until they return to court today for a planned bail hearing. Their bail hearing did not proceed on Friday, following a dramatic turn of events when an immigration official arrested South African senior counsel Mike Hellens and Dawie Joubert, who were to lead the two legal teams representing the six, at the Windhoek Magistrate’s Court before the hearing could start.

Hellens and Joubert were arrested for working in Namibia without having employment permits. With their arrest having thrown their clients’ bail hearing off course, Hellens and Joubert also ended up in the dock in the Windhoek Magistrate’s Court late on Friday afternoon, when both of them admitted guilt on two charges under the Immigration Control Act.

They admitted that they did not have employments permits allowing them to work in Namibia, and also admitted that they gave false information on the entry forms which they completed on their arrival in Namibia at Hosea Kutako International Airport on Thursday.