Two Namibian government ministers resigned following allegations of corruption and money-laundering in the Namibian fishing industry.
The Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources Bernhard Esau and the Minister of Justice Sacky Shanghala were accused of receiving bribes in return for giving preferential access to Namibia‘s rich fishing grounds to Samherji, one of Iceland’s largest fishing companies.
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Esau and Shanghala stepped down “following press and media reports in which allegations of corruption have been made against” them, presidential spokesman Alfredo Hengari said in a statement.
The resignations came in the wake of a joint investigation between Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit, the Icelandic State Broadcaster RUV, and the Icelandic magazine Stundin based on leaked documents provided by the whistleblowing group WikiLeaks.
WikiLeaks on Tuesday released the “Fishrot” archive, a database of more than 30,000 documents containing internal emails, memos, PowerPoint presentations, and media provided by former Samherji employee-turned-whistle-blower Johannes Stefansson.
Al Jazeera’s investigation exposed the roles of well-connected Namibians who facilitated Samherji’s entry into the industry.
From 2012, Icelandic fishing company Samherji made payments to businesses associated with Shanghala worth close to $10m, the investigation found.
Shanghala had a swift ascent in Namibian politics, from being the chairman of the Law Reform and Development Commission, to being the country’s attorney general until becoming justice minister.
The well-connected politicians appear to have fixed a bilateral fishing agreement with neighbouring Angola in order to provide the Icelandic company Samherji with greater access to Namibian fishing quotas.
Samherji is one of the country’s largest fishing conglomerates with an annual turnover of more than $700m. The company sells its fish to supermarket chains such as Marks and Spencer’s, Carrefour, Tesco and Sainsbury’s.
In a statement, Samherji said it took the allegations seriously and solicited the aid of an international law firm to investigate.
“We are deeply shocked that Johannes Stefansson not only admits being involved in illegal activities, he is now also making allegations against colleagues. This is not how we do business. This is not Samherji,” Samherji CEO Thorsteinn Mar Baldvinsson was quoted as saying.
In a press release, Namibian President Hage Geingob thanked Esau and Shanghala for their “patriotism and contribution to the work of government”.
Geingob appointed acting ministers to replace them.
Following his resignation, Esau denied allegations of corruption and said “no one has presented [him] with any evidence of monies or favours that Bernhard Esau received” in exchange for “duties as a minister”.
When Shanghala was first confronted with evidence against him, he told Al Jazeera: “I have no recollection of money coming from any relationship with Samherji.”
Al Jazeera’s investigation Anatomy of a Bribe will be released on December 1.