Three more face Fishrot prosecution

Andrew Kathindi

Three new names have been added to the “Fishrot” list after the office of the Prosecutor General (PG) said it will charge former Justice Minister, Sacky Shangala’s lawyer Meren De Klerk, along with Phillipus Mwapopi (Accused 8) and Otneel Shuudifonya (Accused 7) for their involvement in the scandal.

De Klerk has been living in South Africa since earlier this year and is believed to have fled justice.

This comes as the Prosecutor General, Martha Imalwa, has decided to arraign the Fishrot accused before the High Court, which is scheduled for pre-trial on 22 April 2021. This date is over 18 months after the first accused was initially arrested.

The accused, which includes Shangala and former Fisheries Minister, Bernard Esau, former Investec Managing Director, James Hatuikulipi and others will however remain in custody and may apply for bail again should they choose to do so.

Meanwhile, the Nengomar case, where former Fishcor Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Mike Nghipunya and five others are accused of funneling N$76 million of state funds has been postponed until 5 February to allow for the finalizing of investigations and the PG’s decision.

This comes as the Fishrot accused have been in custody for over a year.

Defense lawyer, Richard Metcalfe who represents Esau and his son-in-law Tamson Hatuikulipi told Windhoek Observer, following another postponement of the matter, the prolonged period of investigations has made a circus of justice.

“They have been investigating since 2014. I know that in 2018 Johannes Stefansson came to liaise with the Finance Ministry and had two affidavits. They have had 18 months and they have not concluded anything yet. And also, we have no knowledge whether they’ve issued warrants of arrest for the persons whom they wish to extradite.”

Metcalfe added, “The other problem that they have is, we have no extradition treaty with Iceland. So, I really don’t know how they’re going to get the extradition to take place. So again, we’re just going to have these inordinate delays, while the accused languish in custody and make a circus of justice.”

This comes as arrest warrants have been issued for Samherji employees Ingvar Juliusson and Egil Arnsason, according to media reports.

Esau along with five others were arrested last year following their alleged involvement in corruption and money laundering. Their first bail hearing was in November last year and have been denied bail on a number of times as, “it would not be in the interest of the public or the administration of justice.

“We have this nebulous animal called the public interest, which, when there’s no other reason to not grant bail, that seems to be clutched at as well. But the public interest is a two-edged sword. It doesn’t just cut in the favour of the state, it also cuts in the favour of the accused.”

The defense attorney added, “And they have a right to a speedy trial. At this rate, it doesn’t look like there’s going to be any speedy trial. So, any right-minded court should be guided towards the granting of bail, the accused cannot be held as a form of anticipated punishment. You’re innocent until proven guilty.”

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