By Eliaser Ndeyanale and Shinovene Immanuel | 16 September 2020
It has the makings of a Hollywood blockbuster. African ministers allegedly conspiring against the interests of the people they are supposed to serve.
A high-powered European business hoovering up the benefits. Alleged corrupt payouts in exotic tax havens like Dubai. Buying of political power and tons and tons of mackerel. These are just some of the details of the so-called “Fishrot” scandal.
This a comprehensive timeline on the Fishrot scandal:
21 March 2010: Former president Hifikepunye Pohamba appoints Bernard Esau as minister of fisheries and marine resources replacing late Abraham Iyambo who served in that portfolio for 12 years.
28 March 2011: Icelandic business executive Johannes Stefansson travels to Namibia to seek investment opportunities for Samherji.
8 October 2011: Fitty Hatuikulipi marries Esau’s daughter Ndapandula in Windhoek.
November 2011: Stefansson together with Samherji’s African manager Adalstein Helgason met with Tamson Hatuikulipi in Windhoek. Hatuikulipi allegedly agreed to help deliver the quotas that Samherji was looking for.
December 2011: Samherji HF, through Esju Mar Fishing, concludes an advisory agreement with Namibian minister of fisheries Bernard Esau to assist the company in crossing landings in the country.
February 2012: Samherji has been fishing for horse mackerel in Namibia after buying quota holders. This is stated in a note from Samherji’s management meeting: “The result was that we negotiated with JV and the Fish Consumption Trust a total of 28, 000 tonnes for a very high price.”
17 May 2012: Samherji’s chief executive officer and owner Thorsteinn Mar Baldvinsson, Adalsteinn Helgason one of Samherji key managers who had retired in 2016 and Johannes Stefansson meet with Esau at the minister’s farm.
30 May 2012: Samherji bought 30 000 horse mackerel quotas in Namibia and started fishing in Namibia that year.
November 2012: Shanghala produced a report focusing on how Namibia could improve its fishing industry.
1 June 2013: Johannes Stefansson takes over as managing director of Arcticnam Fishing in Namibia. Arcticnam Fishing is one of the companies owned by Icelandic seafood.
July 2013: Namibia and Angola sign a bilateral agreement on fisheries in order to provide Samherji with greater access to the Namibian fishing quotas.
26 February 2014: Sacky Shanghala sends an e-mail to Stefánsson, James Hatuikulipi, Fitty and Icelandic fishing company chief, Baldvinsson saying “gentlemen, we are in business” after they secured a fishing licence in Angola.
8 March 2014: Hatuikulipi sends an e-mail in which he accused Stefánsson of stalling by asking unnecessary questions when the deal was at an advanced stage. He copied in Shanghala and Tamson.
May 2014: Mike Nghipunya appointed as Fishcor chief executive.
24 May 2014: Hatuikulipi registers Tundavala Invest Limited in Dubai. Documents suggest he is the sole director, sole shareholder and company secretary of Tundavala.
- Namgomar sold the Namibian-donated fishing quotas to Samherji HF far below the market price.
- In return for the discount, Samherji allegedly paid kickbacks to the masterminds who made the deal happen through lobbying and designing the scheme.
- The kickbacks were titled “consulting fees” and paid to Tundavala.
Stefánsson provided information stating that about N$148 million was paid from the Icelandic fishing company to the Namgomar masterminds: 2014 [N$21 million], 2015 [N$20 million], 2016 [N$39 million], 2017 [N$39 million] and N$29 million in 2018.
June 2014: Esau and Angolan fisheries minister , Victoria de Barros Neto, signed a bilateral agreement on horse mackerel.
20 August 2014: Shanghala shares a presentation for fishing donations to Angola to Stefansson, James Hatuikulipi, Tamson
Hatuikulipi and Icelandic fishing company chief Baldvinsson.
21 August 2014: Namsov writes to then prime minister Hage Geingob regarding 5908 metric tonne is less than what had been agreed to be given to the company.
28 August 2014: Sacky Shanghala presents in Iceland. The presentation was made a month after Esau signed the donation agreement with Barros Neto. He told his fellows that “before everyone wakes up, we have to move”.
September 2014: Esau appoints relative as Fishcor board chairperson James Hatuikulipi on the Fishcor board. Hatuikulipi is a cousin to Esau’s son in law Fitty Hatuikulipi.
- He also appointed his personal assistant Ndaendomwenyo Sheya to the board of Fishcor.
2014: ACC investigates Esau’s allocation of 10 000 metric tonne of horse mackerel to Fishcor which held hake fishing rights. The scope of the investigation also checked how Hatuikulipi was appointed as Fishcor chairperson.
December 2014: Windhoek High Court ruled that the allocation of fishing rights to Fishcor by Esau had been unlawful.
April 2015: Paulus Ngalangi becomes Fishcor general manager for finance.
May 2015: Bernard Esau with the help of Sacky Shanghala changed the marine resource act to give Esau more powers to allocate fishing rights as he saw fit.
The amendments are viewed as a smokescreen to allocate the right to Samherji, in return of kickbacks to those implicated in the Fishrot corruption scandal.
July 2015: 1 250 fishermen from Luderitz and Walvis Bay lost their job after they embarked on a strike demanding better wages and overtime payment to match their long working hours.
26 July 2015: Bilateral agreement between Namibia and Angola on horse mackerel gazetted resulted in a joint venture called Namgomar SA Pesca, which is mainly in the horse mackerel industry.
13 November 2015: The Namibian publishes an article about a conflict of interest involving the appointment of Development Bank of Namibia’s Vivian Groenewald to the Fishcor board, which Hatuikulipi chairs.
01 December 2015: James Hatuikulipi threatens to sue The Namibian for reporting that he was related to fisheries minister Bernhard Esau and that his appointment as chair of the National Fishing Corporation of Namibia was against the Act under which the company was formed.
2016: Fishcor bought a Fishing factory at the coast for N$160 million in 2016, he parastatal overpaid by as much as N$50 million for the building.
April 2016: Samherji HF representative Stefánsson pays for flights to Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital city. Shanghala and Tamson among others went.
6 July 2016: Esau appoints Stephen Mbithi his technical advisor.
January 2017: Lawyer Marén De Klerk registers Celax Investment Number One. He is the company’s sole director.
Six days after Calex was registered, African Selection Fishing Namibia signed its shareholder agreement with Fishcor.
African Selection Namibia was initially majority-owned by South African economist Adriaan Jacobus Louw, with a 62% stake. Other shareholders were De Klerk’s Celax Investments Number One (33%) and Angolan-based African Selection Trust (5%).
Celax is accused in the Fishrot court papers of being used as a conduit to divert N$75 million from Fishcor.
The money is alleged to have been paid through Celax via the law firm De Klerk, Horn & Coetzee Incorporated.
31 January 2017: Fishcor pays N$50 million into law firm Ellis Shilengudwa Inc’s trust account.
Ten payments of N$5 million each were deposited in the law firm’s account over two days. Transactions are now part of the investigations into the Fishrot scandal.
May 2017: The Namibian reports on the hijacking of the Angolan deal.
February 2018: President Hage Geingob demotes Sacky Shanghala from attorney general position amidst allegations of corruption. He appoints him as justice minister.
12 November 2019: The Namibian, the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service (RUV), Al Jazeera and the Iclandic daily newspaper Stundin began publishing what it called the Fishrot Files, a collection of thousands of documents and email communication by Stefansson.
13 November 2019: Esau, Shanghala resign from their ministerial positions. James Hatuikulipi also resigns as Fishcor board chairperson and Investec manager.
14 November 2019: The board of Samherji announces that Þorsteinn Már Baldvinsonn had temporarily stepped aside as CEO and will be replaced by Björgólfur Jóhannsson while the company conducts an internal investigation on the allegations.
Investec Assets Management managing director James Hatuikulipi resigns on the very same day and public enterprise minister Leon Jooste announces further action within the public fishing industry.
14 November 2019: President Hage Geingob appoints attorney general Albert Kawana and Home affairs minister Frans Kapofi as acting ministers of fisheries and justice respectively.
18 November 2019: Protesters march to the offices of Namibian’s Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) and demand the resignation of director general of ACC, Paulus Noa, and the arrest of the people involved in the scandal.
23 November 2019: Esau and Gustavo arrested by police acting under the auspices and directions of Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC).
24 November 2019: Esau released by order of Windhoek High Court.
26 November 2019: Sacky Shanghala, Pius Mwatelulo and Tamson Hatuikulipi arrested. The collective arrest of the six became known Fishrot six.
27 November 2019: Police arrest Bernard Esau,Sacky Shanghala and James Hatuikulipi.They also arrested Ricardo Gustavo, Tamson ‘Fitty’ hatuikulipi and Pius ‘Taxa’ Mwatelulo
– Shanghala’s employee Nigel Van Wyk arrested and charged with obstructing the course of justice after he allegedly tried to prevent ACC officers from entering the house on the Omaheke region farm where Shanghala and Hatuikulipi were arrested that day.
29 November 2019: The Fishrot six made their first court appearance on counts of corruption, fraud and money-laundering. Their case was postponed to 20 February 2020.
30 November 2019: Two prominent South African advocates, Mike Hellens and Dawie Joubert, representing the Fishrot six in their bid to get bail, fined N$10,000 for representing the accused people in court case without work permits.
2 December 2019: Fishcor CEO Mike Nghipunya suspended from his position.
05 December 2019: the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) filed a summons at the Deeds Office against 15 properties owned by key Fishrot figures.
14 December 2019: Shanghala’s employee, Nigel van Wyk, re-arrested after he was seen visiting Shanghala’s house. –He tried to leave the premises with two briefcases of Shanghala, in which documents linked to the Fishrot fishing quotas corruption case.
15 December 2019: A young woman was arrested for attempting to remove documents from Shanghala’s house.
19 December 2019: The Fishrot six approached Windhoek High Court court. Esau claimed in court papers his arrests had been politically motivated.
27 December 2019: The Fishrot six appeared in court but their case was postponed to 20 February 2020.
15 January 2020: Lawyer De Klerk resigned as a director of Seaflower Pelagic Processing (Pty) Ltd and African Selection Fishing (Namibia).
24 January 2020: Police reservist, Sacky Kokule was arrested by the Anti Corruption Commission for allegedly trying to bribe a police officer to release ATM cards of the Fishrot Six.
17 February 2020: Mike Nghipunya arrested. He was implicated in the Fishrot corruption scandal which paid over N$100 million bribes and kickbacks to prominent government officials and their cronies.
21 February 2020: Fishrot six challenge search and arrest warrant to their premises in the Windhoek High Court.
26 February 2020: The Anti-Corruption Commission asked South African lawyer Tembeka Ngcukaitobi to explain a payment of about N$50 000 allegedly made to him by Fishcor in 2018.
1 April 2020: Windhoek Correctional Services Facility security chief Albinus Mosimane suspended after two of the Fishrot accused were found in possession of cellphones while in holding cells..
8 April 2020: James Hatuikulipi and Pius Mwatelulo charged for allegedly smuggling cell phones into their prison cells.
22 May 2020: Ricardo Gustavo applies for bail saying he wants to clear his name in the Fishrot fishing scandal.
5 June 2020: Nghipunya tells the court he authorized payments to Swapo g party on the instruction of ex-fisheries minister Bernhardt Esau. He also tells the court he is willing to pay an amount of N$ 150 000 for bail.
6 July 2020: Bernard Esau and his son-in- law Tamson Hatuikulipi appear in Windhoek magistrate’s court for bail application.
-Esau offers N$ 23 million assets bail. Tamson tells the court his assets worth N$40million
6 July 2020: Bernard Esau questions why lawyers whose trust accounts were used to channel alleged corrupt payments from Fishcor have not been arrested and charged like he has.
8 July 2020: ACC investigator Willem Olivier, testifies the state-owned Fishcor paid N$17,5 million to the law firm Sisa Namandje & Company, and the ACC has established part of this money was used for a Swapo election campaign.
Olivier testifies Fishcor paid N$75,6 million to law firm De Klerk, Horn & Coetzee; this money was distributed to “other entities and persons”.
Olivier says Ex-minister Bernhard Esau had large expansions done to his farm house in Gobabis, and paid the building contractors in cash – including one payment of more than N$600 000.
10 July 2020: Bernard Esau and Tamson Hatuikulipi bail application postponed to 21 July 2020.
22 July 2020: Bernard Esau and Tamson Hatuikulipi denied bail by magistrate Duard Kesslau saying that it will not be in public interest to grant them bail.