By Shinovene Immanuel, Lazarus Amukeshe and Werner Menges | 22 July 2020
TWO Namibian companies implicated in the Fishrot scandal transferred close to N$100 million to prominent financial investment firms in the past six years.
The investment companies are IJG Securities (N$61 million), PointBreak (N$23 million) and Investec Asset Management Namibia (N$10 million).
These details are contained in court papers filed this month by the Anti-Corruption Commission as part of the bail hearing of former fisheries minister Bernhard Esau and his son-in-law Tamson ‘Fitty’ Hatuikulipi.
The ACC filed a document that maps out the flow of close to N$200 million between 2014 to 2019 from two entities co-owned by lawyer Marén de Klerk.
De Klerk is currently in South Africa and is accused of allegedly operating a scheme to launder money to president Hage Geingob’s Swapo campaigns, politicians, business people and their cronies.
De Klerk allegedly did this through entities he controlled, such as Celax Investment and law firm DHC Inc he co-owns with Stoan Horn and Celeste Coetzee.
The Fishrot scandal has since last year focused on how law firms were used to channel money — including public funds — to politicians and a clique of business people.
Banks and investment companies have largely remained under the radar of scrutiny.
Now, court papers show Fishrot funds were paid through investment companies.
In some cases, money was transferred into investment companies just to be returned a month later to Celax Investment — the company accused of benefiting from N$75 million diverted from the national fishing company Fishcor.
De Klerk who also served as former justice minister Sacky Shanghala’s lawyer, played a key role in the transfer of these funds.
Besides owning the law firm DHC and Celax Investments, he also served on the board of Seaflower Pelagic, a joint venture between Fishcor and African Selection Fishing Namibia.
Seaflower Pelagic Processing and Celax Investments were used as a conduit for money laundering, court charges allege. Celax Investments is co-owned by South African businessman Adriaan Jacobus Louw.
The largest beneficiary from the N$100 million paid by Celax Investments and DHC Inc was IJG Securities, court documents show.
The two entities paid N$61 million to IJG between 2014 and 2019. Part of this was returned to the two Fishrot accused companies.
According to sources, part of these transactions includes N$14 million transferred into De Klerk’s firm in August 2017 by a Samherji Namibian subsidiary called Mermaria.
That amount was then moved from DHC Inc to Celax Investments the following day.
That same day, it was moved out of Celax Investments to IJG in three payments. This was done on Saturday, 5 August 2017.
Five days later, IJG Securities transferred N$7,4 million to Celax Investments.
Celax then further distributed N$7,4 million to JHT Trading – owned by Tamson Hatuikulipi (N$3 million) and N$4,4 million back into DHC Inc’s trust account.
IJG Securities is an investment company and is a registered broker with the Namibian Stock Exchange and mainly deals in investments on the premier exchange, as well as the buying and selling of government bonds and treasury bills – or what is known as fixed income trading.
Detailed questions sent to IJG’s managing director Mark Späth were not answered.
The Namibian asked IJG to explain the relationship between them and De Klerk’s companies.
The newspaper also asked whether they checked the legitimacy of the funds they received from the two entities.
Another company that benefited from Celax Investment and DHC Inc is Pointbreak, a Namibian financial services group that offers investment and wealth management services to private individuals.
Pointbreak, which is owned by FNB Namibia, allegedly received around N$23 million in six years. The company paid back around N$16 million to DHC Inc.
Questions sent to Pointbreak Group chief executive officer Josephat Mwatotele were not answered.
The company did not state whether the N$7 million is still with them and what steps they took to ensure funds were not contaminated.
The third investment company that benefited from De Klerk’s entities is Investec Asset Management Namibia (now renamed to Ninety One Asset Management Namibia).
Investec received N$10 million from DHC Inc, a law firm implicated in fraud and money laundering allegations as part of the Fishrot scandal.
Documents show that N$44 000 was repaid to DHC Inc.
The money was paid when James Hatuikulipi was managing director at Investec.
Investec, now known as Ninety One, did not respond to detailed questions on the funds, nor the relationship that exists or existed between them and DHC or Celax Investments.
Gwynneth Rukoro, acting managing director of Ninety One, said they were bound by confidentiality.
“Ninety One had no knowledge of the alleged illegal activities relating to fishing quotas. We continue to cooperate with the authorities and regulators in their investigation. We are bound by rules around client confidentiality, so cannot provide any further information,” she said.
Internationally, investment companies are in the spotlight.
News agency Reuters reported last week that the US Federal Bureau of Investigation believes firms in the nearly $10-trillion private investment funds industry are used as vehicles for laundering money at scale.
During the hearing or closing arguments in the bail application of Esau and Tamson Hatuikulipi in the Windhoek Magistrate’s Court yesterday, defence lawyer Richard Metcalfe argued that evidence presented to the court by the prosecution provided “a shocking picture”.
He said it showed that “an exorbitant amount” had been paid to Pointbreak, IJG and Investec Asset Management from accounts of De Klerk, Horn & Coetzee Inc and De Klerk’s company Celax Investments Number One.
Metcalfe claimed the three investment companies appear to “enjoy special status like the special-status lawyers in this matter who are apparently immune from prosecution”, despite the fact that millions of dollars connected to the case had been channelled through the trust accounts of their law firms.
Metcalfe charged that the Anti-Corruption Commission was instead choosing “to create a false narrative” to implicate his clients and conceal “the real issues” by ignoring the payments made to the investment companies, which he claimed received about 70% of alleged inappropriate funds involved in the two Fishrot corruption cases.
Anti-Corruption Commission director general Paulus Noa yesterday said they are still obtaining statements from implicated companies.
“If you have been following the bail application proceedings you would know that we have obtained evidence regarding the flow of money to the companies you mentioned,” he said.
“We are still busy obtaining evidence relating to flows of money to whatever implicated companies. Obtaining information and evidence entail proving our case,” he said.
Esau is considered one of the key suspects in the Fishrot scandal. He wielded political power which changed Namibian laws to enable deals that are now exposed as corrupt.
His son-in-law Tamson is suspected of receiving millions from the fishing sector deals.
Esau also appointed Tamson’s cousin James Hatuikulipi to the Fishcor board six years ago.
James is now painted as a mastermind in Namibia’s biggest fishing scandal.
*This article has been updated to clarify that the N$100 million was not paid to investment firms but transferred.
Read an updated story here: Firms deny getting Fishrot millions