Iceland officials in Namibia to investigate role of their citizens in Fishrot

CATCHING UP… Intertnational relations minister Netumbo Nandi- Ndaitwah visited icleand last year. She met foreign minister of Iceland Þórdís Kolbrún Reyjkfjörð Gylfadótti (left). Photo: icelandreview.com

The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) says Icelandic investigators and prosecutors are in Namibia to investigate the role played by their citizens in the N$300 million Fishrot corruption scandal.

ACC director general Paulus Noa confirmed the visit on Friday.

He said the Icelandic team is assisting the Namibian government in uncovering the potential involvement of Icelandic fishing company Samherji and its implicated individuals.

“The investigators and district prosecutors from Iceland are here to meet their counterparts, ACC officials. The reason they are in Namibia is that in Iceland, they are investigating the allegations of the Fishrot corruption to find out whether their nationals or their national companies implicated in this Fishrot case were actually involved in the corruption case,” he said.

Noa added that the aim is to uncover evidence and ensure that individuals implicated in the Fishrot saga are prosecuted, regardless of their nationality, under the legal frameworks of both nations.

“In their own country, this corruption case is also a crime and if they find evidence implicating their own nationals, then they will definitely prosecute them as well. The Namibian delegation also visited Iceland in connection with this Fishrot case,” he said.

A year ago, a Namibian delegation led by deputy prime minister Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah visited Iceland to convince Iceland’s prosecution authorities to sanction the extradition of Samherji bosses.

Nandi-Ndaitwah was accompanied by prosecutor general (PG) Martha Imalwa and ACC deputy director Erna van der Merwe, in addition to the group.

According to Namibia’s extradition report, three Icelanders wanted for extradition are Aldalsteinn Helgason, Engill Helgi Arnason and Ingvar Júlíusson, who never stepped foot in Namibian courts to answer for their alleged crimes.

The three men were former employees of Samherji.

Samherji allegedly bribed Namibian officials and fishing company executives to obtain favourable treatment and access to Namibia fishing grounds.

Their co-accused are former Cabinet ministers Bernhard Esau and Sacky Shanghala, Esau’s son-in-law Tamson ‘Fitty’ Haitukulipi, former Investec Asset Management Namibia managing director James Hatuikulipi and former Investec Namibia executive Ricardo Gustavo and Pius Mwatelulo.

The six men are believed to have received over N$300 million of corrupt payments from Icelandic-owned companies in exchange for fishing quotas.

When approached for a comment, Imalwa said she was unaware of the Icelandic delegation currently in Namibia to assist in the Fishrot case.

Imalwa directed inquiries to ACC saying that they are the primary investigative body handling the case.

The Fishrot scandal came to light in November 2019, when WikiLeaks shared over 30 000 documents including company emails, contracts, presentations and photos leaked by a former Samherji manager in Namibia and whistleblower Jóhannes Stefánsson.

He alleged how Samherji paid millions of dollars to bribe high level officials in Namibia in exchange for trawling rights.

In 2022, the Institute for Public Policy Research in Namibia and Transparency International Iceland issued a joint statement calling for suspects in both Iceland and Namibia to be held legally accountable for the Fishrot corruption scandal.

“Citizens of both countries have expressed, through public protests, news investigations and civil society efforts, that it cannot be right that only Namibian citizens are held legally accountable for Fishrot, when the corruption scandal clearly involved individuals in Iceland as well,” the statement said.

“Both organisations are collaborating in seeking international accountability for the Fishrot corruption scandal.”

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