By Shinovene Immanuel | 19 November 2019
Jóhannes Stefánsson came to Namibia in 2011, sent by the Icelandic seafood company, Samherji HF, to look for business opportunities. To accomplish his mission, Stefánsson got involved in questionable payments to politicians and businessmen in Namibia and Angola.
Now he says his conscience bothered him so much he became a whistle-blower to end schemes that harmed the Namibian economy and ordinary Namibians.
Stefánsson’s information could help Namibia track transactions worth more than N$2,5 billion in the fishing industry. The documents he provided could possibly be the biggest leak in Namibia’s fishing sector since independence.
In Stefánsson’s words:
“I was managing director for Arcticnam Fishing [co-owned by Icelandic seafood company] from 2013 to July 2016.
I did not agree with many of Samherji methods like inflated charter fees paid from Namibia, transfer pricing violations and tax issues practised.
Some of this bothered me more and some less, but after my departure, I started to understand much better the consequences of all this on Namibia, the economy and the Namibian people.
I was not going to be part of that since I played the biggest role to bring Samherji to Namibia and introduced them to key people in Namibia.
There were payments made to the key people in Namibia. I did not agree with the high amount paid, but maybe I believed it was normal in this working environment and followed the lead of some of the key people in Samherji.
I played a big role to negotiate these payments but I always paid with the approval of Samherji bosses both directly or through other key people.
After my departure, I started to realise how far both Samherji and the key people in Namibia are robbing Namibian people.
It bothers me a lot after my departure to see the Namibian economy suffer and [some] people benefit from corruption and financial crimes in general.
I wanted to help get things straight. I met the investigation team in Namibia in August 2018 and found the comfort to fight corruption and financial crimes of Samherji and the key people in Namibia.
I already wanted to do that in 2016 but my will has grown [a lot now] to assist, including Namibians.
My safety has been a concern since my departure from the company and my life was in danger.
I have had to be extra careful and I am very lucky to have good people around me and protectors who have saved my life more than once and prevented several attempts to my life.
I travel with bodyguards when needed. Also, I work with authorities in some countries to make sure I am safe.
Probably most whistle-blowers in the world are attacked personally in an attempt to damage their credibility. And those who wants to stop whistle.blowers they … often create dirt on them in order to try to damage the credibility of the whistle-blower. I will probably be no exception and those who want to stop this will very likely start to attack me personally which I expect.
I believe the attacks on me started three years ago when I left the company and now when the truth is coming out then we can expect much more … We have to have in mind that those who are behind corruption schemes don’t have anything else to protect them with so they will very likely attack the person who comes forward. But the proof/documents speaks for themselves.
And that tells the true story.”