Fishrot accused’s N$6m legal bill fix

Fishrot accused persons have run into a legal bill fix, with their lawyers now readying an application to try and recover their current fees, in excess of N$6 million, through seized assets of the accused.

Lawyers miss legal fees application deadline

Accused persons run low on cash

State to oppose application

By Hilary Mare

FISHROT accused persons have run into a legal bill fix, with their lawyers now readying an application to try and recover their current fees in excess of N$6 million, through seized assets of the accused, Confidente can reveal.

A source close to the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity said that the living and legal expenses application which was to be brought before the court earlier this week has missed its deadline but will soon be filed as the only option for legal costs relief.

Confidente has been reliably informed that this application was to be filed on November 8 but was stopped in the 11th hour pending some agreements from the various lawyers representing the accused.

Some legal practitioners in the case have already started resorting to holding back on their services as payments hang in the balance, the source who spoke to Confidente said.

“The accused persons are in a terrible fix in which they may lose people on their legal teams. Currently there have only been one senior and one junior who were participating in the bail hearing. There is real worry and concern that they (the accused) may end up being constrained in their legal right to legal representation.

“At the same time, the accused are asking to spend the very same assets that they are being accused of having looted which creates a tough proposition. We wait to see whether the application will be successful or not which would have a bearing on this case which is set to go to trial,” the source said.

Prosecutor General, Martha Imalwa this week told Confidente that this matter would be dealt with by the courts hinting that the State will oppose the application.

“Anything that they raise has an opposing side from the State. This matter should be dealt with in court and decided on by the court. All our papers have been filed and this will also be subject to oral arguments. I do not want to discuss this matter but I am sure if you follow the bail application proceedings you will understand the position of the State,” she said.

NO IMMEDIATE RESOLUTION

A recent court order seen by Confidente noted that the defendants and respondents must file their application for living and legal expenses on or before November 8 adding that the applicant (Prosecutor-General) must file her notice of intention to oppose or not to oppose the application(s) on or before November 12.

“If the applicant decides to oppose, she must file her answering papers on or before 18 January 2022. The defendants and respondents must file their replying affidavits on or before 21 January 2022 and the defendants and respondents must file their heads of argument on or before 26 January 2022. The applicant must file her heads of argument on or before 02 February 2022,” the order reads.

EXORBITANT LEGAL COSTS AHEAD

An investigation done by Confidente recently unearthed that a daily legal bill of approximately N$200 000 for the duration of the Fishrot trial awaits the accused persons.

According to legal experts who spoke to Confidente, the Fishrot trial may take in excess of five years to complete which raises fears that the legal bill will run into multi-millions.

Making reference to the SSC Avid scandal that lasted for 10 years before it concluded, a legal expert based in Windhoek broke down the legal bill to Confidente saying that a senior advocate now charges on average N$50 000 per day while their associates charge two thirds of that fee which is roughly N$30 000 per day on average. Attorneys, the expert said, now charge between N$3 000 and N$6 000 per hour.

“Given this circumstance, it goes without saying that the accused will each require an attorney, a senior advocate and an assistant advocate. This therefore means that the minimum that they would have to fork out is no less than N$200 000. This is of course for the full duration of the trial which could mean a lot of money,” he said.

A snap survey by Confidente this week has revealed that top senior advocates such as  Jeremy Gauntlett now charge in excess of N$70 000 per day for their services.

The 10 men charged in connection with the Fishrot scandal around the alleged illegal exploitation of Namibian fishing quotas are due to be prosecuted on 42 criminal charges in total, according to the latest incarnation of the indictment setting out the crimes they are claimed to have committed.

The 10 accused – together with two companies, 12 close corporations, and four trusts represented by individual accused – will be tried on charges that include counts of fraud, bribery, corruption, racketeering, money laundering and tax evasion.

A bail application by former Minister of Justice Sacky Shanghala, his business partner James Hatuikulipi, former National Fishing Corporation of Namibia (Fishcor) chief executive officer Mike Nghipunya, Pius Mwatelulo, Phillipus Mwapopi, and Otneel Shuudifonya started this month.

A separate bail application by a former senior employee of Investec Asset Management in Namibia, Ricardo Gustavo, is scheduled to be heard from November 15.

Also facing charges in the matter are former Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources Bernhard Esau, his son-in-law Tamson Hatuikulipi, and an ex-employee of Shanghala and James Hatuikulipi, Nigel van Wyk.