By Shinovene Immanuel | 22 October 2019
BUSINESSMAN Tonata Shiimi gave assurances to the government in 2015 that “ethics, accountability, honesty and credibility are values that are close to Kora, including those associated with this project from a planning perspective.”
A few months later, N$23 million paid by the state-owned Namibia Tourism Board (NTB) to Benin businessman Ernest Adjovi to organise the Kora All Africa Music Awards in Namibia, disappeared.
Shiimi – Adjovi’s Kora fixer in Namibia – gave this assurance in an email sent to environment and tourism minister Pohamba Shifeta on 15 December 2015. Shiimi’s email is part of information obtained by The Namibian from sources at the tourism agency to show how red flags were raised about this transaction as early as 2015.
President Hage Geingob, justice minister Sacky Shanghala and businessman Shiimi are cited in court papers as key players implicated in this scandal.
Adjovi said in court papers that his “ties” to Geingob landed him the N$23 million deal to host the awards. Geingob has since 2015 accused Adjovi of misusing his name for personal benefit.
The government dragged Adjovi to court in 2016 to force him to pay back the money for the show that never took place.
Sources said Shifeta initially clashed with Adjovi over the funding of the Kora Awards, to such an extent that the two threw angry words at each other at several meetings in 2015.
Officials who attended some of those meetings said Adjovi threatened to report Shifeta to “State House” for questioning this transaction.
Shanghala, the then attorney general, suddenly stepped in, and became the key government official leading the talks with the tainted Benin businessman with alleged business dealings across Africa.
Shanghala crafted the agreement which was signed by NTB chief executive Digu //Naobeb and Adjovi for the music awards.
The copy of the agreement, seen by The Namibian, shows that the NTB paid N$23 million for the music awards to carry 26 Namibian tourism marketing video clips on 30 international television stations.
These clips would be shown two months before the awards which were initially set for April 2016.
Shanghala wrote to Shifeta on 2 December 2015, saying the NTB would also get six 30-second promotional spots to be aired during the ceremony’s live broadcast.
In addition, the NTB would get two full pages in a Kora Awards magazine.
The Namibian understands that Adjovi asked for more money after getting N$23 million to host the awards, but the environment ministry rejected this demand.
Sources estimate that his demands would have resulted in the government pumping N$60 million into the awards.
Shifeta – the political head of the NTB – started asking questions around two weeks after Shanghala’s December letter.
Shifeta wrote an email to Adjovi on 15 December 2015, at around 14h30, questioning why taxpayers’ money was paid to a foreign company instead of a Namibian bank account, as agreed.
“You may recall that, at State House, after the press conference, I proposed [for] Kora to establish a local bank account, and the attorney general concurred with me on that,” Shifeta said.
Court papers show that the money was instead paid into Adjovi’s bank account in Spain.
“The following question needs an answer to allay my anxiety. Since the account of Kora is not in Namibia, the transaction is not done on cash-and-delivery principles: are the funds paid secured by all means[?],” Shifeta asked.
Businessman Shiimi – Adjovi’s Kora representative in Namibia – responded to Shifeta around two hours later via email.
Shiimi said Adjovi was on a flight to Ivory Coast at the time.
“I can, however, confirm that the funds are secured, and that yourself or the ministry should not be concerned at all as this is the same international account and the same organisation that has been organising Kora over the last 20 years,” he stated.
Shiimi added that “ethics, accountability, honesty and credibility are values that are close to Kora, including those associated with this project from a planning perspective”.
He continued that “you can rest assured of the best-practice principles at all times.
Kind regards, and many thanks”.
MONEY IS GONE
The Benin-born businessman promised Namibia manna from heaven, and even told The Namibian at the time that the overall winner would bag N$14,4 million.
Environment ministry officials, the NTB and the attorney general met in 2016 after realising that the N$23 million was gone.
Sources said Shifeta and Shanghala were part of that meeting. A person with direct knowledge of the matter said the environment minister then suggested to the attorney general to assist the government to recover the lost millions. Shanghala, officials said, refused, saying his office does not have money to take legal action against Adjovi.
“The money is gone,” Shanghala is said to have responded.
The lack of support from the attorney general’s office, which crafted the agreement with Adjovi, forced Shifeta to direct the NTB to use private lawyers to sue the Benin businessman.
That is why law firm Kangueehi & Kavendjii Inc is now representing the NTB on behalf of the government, which dragged Adjovi to court in 2016 to force him to pay back the money.
Sources said Shanghala tried to push for an out-of-court settlement with Adjovi, even when the matter was pending in court.
Shanghala referred questions, on his role in this scandal, to the Office of the Attorney General.
“I wasn’t attending [the matter] in my own capacity,” Shanghala said.
Shifeta declined to comment, saying the matter is in court.
IT WASN’T ME
Businessman Shiimi told The Namibian yesterday that his email sent in December 2015 was just to confirm that the money was indeed paid.
Last week, Shiimi also issued a statement, admitting that he was Namibia’s Kora representative for the awards. He, however, said he could not be held responsible for the lost N$23 million.
Shiimi added that he never entered into any contract with Adjovi.
“Therefore, I had no obligation to the NTB whatsoever. I never received N$23,5 million from the NTB. The money was paid to Mr Adjovi and his companies, not to me,” he stressed.
Shiimi furthermore stated that he was never a director, officer, or shareholder in Kora, or any of Adjovi’s companies.
“My relationship with Adjovi was purely on the basis of my company providing event management services to the Kora awards, a task that was fulfilled during March 2015 till March 2016,” he added.
According to him, the NTB removed him from the list of people being sued to recover the lost millions.
He said some false statements are being made on social media that “I was directed by Geingob to work on the Kora awards with Adjovi. This assertion is false and devoid of any truth.”
“Never was I directed by Geingob to get engaged in the Kora project, to represent him in any way, shape or form, or to be a conduit of some sort on any project”, he added.
Shiimi said the summons issued to him were withdrawn.
Comments 1 – 1 of 1
Fellow Namibians, please start to identify and pre-diagnose the symptoms of serial scammers and their West African Non-delivery scams. Those are SWEET-TALKERS and hard-core THIEVES not Businessmen as you glorify them………… Some of those people will never ever be trusted for any business transaction anywhere in the world and what is left for them is just to die PAUPERS…………… – Iyela Simeon | 2019-10-22