Fishrot suspects finally get trial dates

Hertta-Maria Amutenja

The suspects in Namibia’s biggest fishing corruption scandal, notoriously known as Fishrot, will finally go to trial in October 2023, three years after their arrest in 2019.

The announcement was made today at a pre-trial conference in the Windhoek high court. Judge Kobus Miller is presiding. The suspects are former Justice Minister Sakeus Shanghala, former Investec Asset Management Managing Director James Hatuikulipi, employee Ricardo Gustavo, former Fisheries Minister Bernard Esau, his son-in-law and James’s cousin Tamson Hatuikulipi, their cousin Pius Mwatelula, former Fishcor Chief Executive Officer Mike Nghipunya, a former Deputy Director in the Otjozondjupa regional Council Otniel Shuudifonya, former City Police Officer Phillipus Mwapopi and Shanghala’s employee Nigel van Wyk.

The trial dates have been set for 2 October 2023. The suspects have been in custody since November 2019 after , Wikileaks began publishing Fishrot Files,a collection of thousands of documents and email communication by employees of one of Iceland’s largest fish industry companies, Samherjji, that indicated that the company had paid hundreds of millions to the high ranking politicians and officials.

The suspects are facing an array of charges after they allegedly exploited Namibian fishing quotas.

The court was also made aware that the lawyers representing the suspects will file an application to be paid legal fees from the accused’s assets that were restraint by the Prosecutor general Martha Imalwa’s office.

The accused’s lawyers had argued that Prosecutor general Imalwa’s court application for a property restraint order over assets of the six of the men charged in the case was flawed from the start.

Furthermore, Esau and Hatuikulipi petitioned the Chief Justice to review the decision to refuse an appeal against the refusal of Miller to recuse himself from the case for alleged bias.The judgement in this matter is reserved for 17 May 2023.

I’m an earlier court appearance, Anti Corruption Commission Investigator Andreas Kanyangela testified that an income tax notice belonging to James Hatuikulipi indicated that he owed the finance ministry an amount of N$ 403 624 in 2014, N$ 4 951 266 in 2015, N$ 7 291 957 in 2016, N$ 4 236 000 and N$ 4 591 174 in 2028, totaling N$ 21 473 921.

Kanyangela also revealed that Former Justice minister Sacky Shanghala owes the finance ministry amounts of N$ 2 101 223, between the period of 2014 to 2019.

A company belonging to Former Fishcor Chief Executive Officer Mike Nghipunya and another co-accused Otneel Shuudifonya, Wanyemba Investments Trust is said to owe the finance ministry N$ 12 531 294 for the period of 2018 to 2020. Tuafika logistics cc, a company belonging to Pius Mwatelulo owes the finance ministry N$ 2 702 489, between the period of 2014 to 2018, Kanyagela told the court.

Shuudifonya owes the ministry N$ 674 234 in taxes.

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