Officials in Namibia corruption scheme to remain in custody

Six people suspected of involvement in money-laundering scheme unearthed by Al Jazeera to remain held until February 20.

Namibia - DO NOT USE
Former Ministers Bernhard Esau and Sacky Shanghala both resigned following Al Jazeera's investigation into Namibia's corruption [YouTube/Facebook]

Six Namibian officials and businessmen suspected of involvement in a bribery and money-laundering scheme will remain in custody until February 20, a court in the capital, Windhoek, has said.

The decision on Monday came after their lawyers said they would abandon their bail application following their arrest last week, according to local media.

The six include former Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources Bernhard Esau and former Minister of Justice Sacky Shanghala, who were accused of corruption, fraud and tax evasion. The other suspects are Esau’s son-in-law Tamson Hatuikulipi; his cousin James Hatuikulipi; and businessmen Ricardo Gustavo and Pius Mwatelulo.

The group was arrested following an undercover investigation by Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit that was based on documents leaked by Johannes Stefansson, a former employee of the Icelandic fishing conglomerate Samherji, to the whistle-blowing group WikiLeaks .

The so-called “Fishrot Files” show how Samherji, one of Iceland‘s largest fishing companies, colluded with senior political and business figures in Namibia to gain preferential access to the country’s lucrative fishing grounds. 

Protests outside of court

Before the decision, local media reported a large crowd had gathered outside the court to protest against the granting of bail to the so-called “Fishrot six”.

The protesters carried signs reading “Fishy government” and “Don’t use the iPhone to bail yourself out”, referring to undercover footage showing Esau accepting an iPhone from an undercover Al Jazeera reporter.

Last week, hundreds of protesters marched to the Namibian Anti-Corruption Commission calling for the resignation of Director Paulus Noa after he was accused of not taking sufficient action against known cases of corruption in the country. 

The commission then moved forward with issuing arrest warrants, with the arrests following on Wednesday.

In Iceland, similar protests happened when thousands of people assembled in the main square in front of Parliament at the weekend to protest against corruption.

Demonstrators in Reykjavik called for the resignation of the country’s Minister of Fisheries Kristjan Thor Juliusson, who used to be on the board of Samherji.

Anatomy of a Bribe

In Anatomy of a Bribe, Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit, together with Icelandic state television RUV and the Icelandic magazine Stundin, posed as Chinese investors, attempting to enter the Namibian fishing industry to acquire highly lucrative fishing quotas for a proposed joint-venture with Namibian fishing company Omualu.

Under the instructions of Omualu’s Managing Director Sacky Kadhila-Amoomo, the donation was to be laundered to Namibia’s ruling South West Africa People’s Organisation (SWAPO) party under the guise of a foreign investment in a real-estate. 

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The donation was to be channelled through the trust account of Sisa Namandje, who has been the personal lawyer of all Namibian presidents since the country’s independence in 1990.

During the investigation, Esau requested a donation of $200,000 from the Chinese “investors” for SWAPO before the country’s general election that took place on November 27.

The vote was won by SWAPO, with President Hage Geingob securing a second term in office.

All of the parties implicated in Al Jazeera’s film deny any wrongdoing. In a press statement, Samherji said it had “nothing to hide” from any investigation.

Source: Al Jazeera