Namibians involved in Fishrot scandal sanctioned by US State Department
On June 15, the US State Department publicly named two former Namibian government officials for their role in “significant corruption.” According to Press statement, former Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources Bernhardt Esau and former Minister of Justice Sakeus Shanghala are now “ineligible for entry into the United States” due to “their involvement in significant corruption”. The State Department also publicly named Esau’s wife Swamma Esau and son Philippus Esau.
“In an official capacity… they have been implicated in acts of corruption which have undermined the rule of law and the confidence of the Namibian public in the democratic institutions and public processes of their government, including using their political influence and official power. to their personal benefit, ”the press release explains. .
Esau and Shanghala resigned from their government positions in November 2019, according to a item from Al Jazeera. Esau was stopped later in the month in connection with “allegations of corruption and money laundering in the Namibian fishing industry”. These events followed that of WikiLeaks release of documents November 14, 2019 – The documents alleged allegations of corruption and misconduct in the Namibian fishing industry. A whistleblower who worked for the Icelandic multinational fishing company Samherji, Jóhannes Stefánsson, provided WikiLeaks with more than 30,000 documents that WikiLeaks named the Fishrot files.
Stefánsson was the managing director of Samherji and overseeing the day-to-day operations of the company in Walvis Bay, Namibia, when he observed suspected corrupt activities within the company. In an exclusive interview with News from the whistleblower network (WNN), he described what he witnessed regarding fishing quotas in Namibia. Samherji operates in areas where fishing quotas could be “bought, sold or leased” – quotas are a way for governments to regulate fishing and set “total allowable catches by species,” according to the interview with Stefánsson.
Stefánsson alleged that “corrupt politicians and businessmen” would sell fishing quotas to Samherji, who would then cash in their big catches of fish like horse mackerel. He said in the interview that the alleged corruption “concerns this great access to fishing quotas through this corruption with well connected businessmen and politicians”. Stefánsson also said that this way of obtaining fishing quotas was abnormal: “Normally it is the local people in the countries that have the fishing rights who get the fishing quotas and sell them to companies like Samherji. Fishing rights should not go to politicians.
Following the publication by WikiLeaks of the Fishrot files, Al Jazeera, Icelandic broadcaster RUV, and the Icelandic magazine stunning released a joint investigation into the documents. According to the Al Jazeera article, Esau and Shanghala were allegedly involved in the Fishrot cases for receiving “bribes” in exchange for helping Samherji to obtain fishing quotas in Namibia and for manipulating fish. similarly the Namibian fishing industry. “Namibian government officials and Samherji leaders have laundered money to tax havens and some of the fishing company’s operations in other countries as part of a tax evasion scheme,” reported Corruption Watch in a November 2020 report item. “He also paid 10 million US dollars (154 million rand) in bribes to certain Namibian officials and businessmen.”
Regarding the public designation of Esau and Shanghala, the State Department press release said, “This designation reaffirms the United States’ commitment to support anti-corruption reforms that are key to the future success of Namibia. The United States continues to stand with all Namibians for democracy and the rule of law, and against those who undermine these principles for personal gain. The Department will continue to use authorities like this to promote the accountability of corrupt actors in this region and around the world. “
A June 9, 2021 item of Namibian states that Iceland has rejected a request by Namibia to extradite three Icelandic leaders from Samherji who were allegedly involved in the Fishrot scandal. “According to Icelandic law, the country does not extradite its citizens. The laws are clear and it is prohibited, ”said Deputy Director of the Icelandic Public Prosecutor’s Office, Helgi Magnús Gunnarsson. Namibian. Gunnarsson also told the outlet “that the Fishrot investigation in Iceland is not yet finalized, which does not allow to know if all the leaders will be indicted”.
SeafoodSource reports that in “February 2021, prosecutors in Namibia charged 26 people, including three current Samherji employees, with racketeering, money laundering and tax evasion.” According to Namibian, “Namibia’s Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) completed its investigation into the Fishrot scandal late last year. The commission has since submitted its findings to the Attorney General, Martha Imalwa.
For his denunciation in this case, Stefánsson won the 2021 WIN WIN Gothenburg Sustainability Award in April 2021. in 2017 ”, according to the previous WNN report. In March 2021, Stefansson declared WNN that he believes he was poisoned in retaliation for his denunciation and that he has since suffered physical consequences.
Read our article on Stefánsson’s Whistleblower of the Week at WNN here.
Watch an exclusive WNN video interview with Stefansson here.
Read more news about international whistleblowers at WNN.