Fishrot 6 used to prison life – Hamunyela

By Eliaser Ndeyanale

COMMISSIONER General of the Namibia Correctional Service Raphael Hamunyela has said that a group of notorious officials implicated in the massive multi-billion dollar fishing industry corruption scandal known as Fishrot, are starting to get used to prison life.

He said this in an interview with Confidente this week. According to the prison boss, when the six were first transferred to Windhoek Correctional Facility, they looked stressed, apprehensive and anxious but now they appear to be fine.

“Some of our members were treating them as honourables. They are not honourables anymore. We said no, they cannot be treated as honourables because that would have discriminated [against] other inmates.

“Once a person comes here, no matter what their status in the community is they are not treated special. They are inmates. There is nothing honourable about them. If a person is an inmate or an offender, they should be treated as such.

“These guys have now understood that there is time for everything in life. They are now used to prison life… they are fine now,” Hamunyela reiterated.

The six trial-awaiting suspects, two of whom are former ministers (Bernhard Esau and Sackeus Shanghala) are alleged by the Anti-Corruption Commission to have been heavily involved in large-scale corruption in Namibia’s fledgling fishing industry, and along with their cohorts face multiple charges separately and collectively, ranging from money-laundering, bribery, tax evasion and fraud on an epic scale committed from 2012 to 2019.

The infamous Fishrot Six include former minister of fisheries Esau and former minister of justice Shanghala. The other suspects are Esau’s son-in-law Tamson Hatuikulipi, his cousin James Hatuikulipi, and investment managers Ricardo Gustavo and Pius Mwatelulo.

In recent months, additional charges of obstruction of justice have been added to the charge sheet and several more parties, including a reserve police officer were arrested for attempting to interfere with investigations by attempting to remove computers, data and even bank cards in police possession.

The six are accused of having been involved in a scheme in which Icelandic companies allegedly paid them at least N$103 million to get access to Namibian fishing quotas, for fish potentially worth billions of dollars on the world market.

According to the Charleston Chronicle, an investigation was launched by Wikileaks into the so-called Fishrot Files – the under-the-table sale of fishing rights between 2011 and 2018, after they obtained 30 000 internal documents from a whistleblower within Samherji, the multinational fishing company based in Iceland.

The leaked records exposed corrupt schemes by the company to gain access to Namibia’s rich fishing grounds off the African country’s shores. The leaked e-mails, internal reports, spreadsheets, presentations and photos exposed how the company paid tens of millions of dollars to senior Namibian officials and politicians to ensure growing and continued access to the country’s marine resources.

Also exposed were lofty promises by Samherji to build infrastructure and create jobs in Namibia. On the contrary, the company used its international corporate structure (a complex web of interlinked companies) to transfer proceeds from its Namibian operations straight out of the country via tax havens and other means. It is suspected that they did so with the knowledge and assistance of the Fishrot Six.