The Namibian Police are ready to face the multinational Icelandic fishing company at the centre of the fisheries corruption scandal in court over the seizure of the Heinaste super trawler in the port of Walvis Bay over the past weekend.
Suspicions that a local subsidiary company of Samherji was going to send the fishing vessel away from Namibian waters was confirmed when the Saga and the Geysir both sailed off to foreign shores more than a week ago.
Along with the fact that the company has indicated clearly that it is the process of divesting from Namibia formed firm grounds on which the seizure of the fishing vessel under Article 28 of the Prevention of Organized Crime Act (POCA) was ordered.
In a statement the interim Chief Executive Officer of Samherji, Björgólfur Jóhannsson, said the company intends to approach the Namibian courts with an application to have the vessel released that was supposed to leave Namibian waters to be sold in Asia.
“It is our view that the renewed seizure of Heinaste is wrongful under Namibian law and we will now take necessary legal steps in Namibia in court if necessary,” Jóhannsson said in his statement.
Jóhannsson stated last week that it is the multinational company’s purpose that Heinaste remain in Namibia was to conclude a charter or be sold to local operators with the object of preserving the jobs of local fishermen.
According to Jóhannsson only a convicted person can have their assets seized under Namibian law.
“The owner of the Heinaste has not been charged let alone convicted of any offence.”
Previously the group had stated it was pleased that a case concerning Heinaste and its captain was finally resolved in the Magistrates’ Court of Walvis Bay. The court refused to grant a forfeiture order, finding that it was not proven that the owner of the vessel, Heinaste Investments (Pty) Ltd, in which Samherji indirectly holds a controlling interest, did not take all reasonable steps to prevent the vessel from being used illegally. The presiding Magistrate ordered the state to return the vessel’s papers to the owner.
“Samherji is concerned that the Namibian Police deliberately ignored the court order and refused to return the ship’s papers to the owner, as the court ordered it to do.”
Commissioner Nelius Becker, Commander of the Criminal Investigations Directorate of the Namibian Police, countered the claims of Samherji and said the seizure of the vessel followed after sufficient grounds were found to suspect that the multinational company are not going to keep to its promises and allow the trawler to stay in Namibia.
“The ship is a valuable asset to the company and their conduct in Namibia with regard to the fisheries corruption scandal is still under investigation by the Namibian Police in parallel with the Anti-Corruption Commission,” Commissioner Becker said.
Commissioner Becker said that to his knowledge no application has been filed with any Namibian Court to apply for the release of the vessel. He indicated that the Namibian Police would counter such legal action with fervour.
The Director General of the Anti-Corruption Commission, Paulus Noa, said the Prevention of Organised Crime Act can only be enforced by the Namibian Police.
“Although the ACC is not directly involved in the seizure of the vessel under the POCA, the action by the Namibian Police benefits our investigations into aspects of the fisheries corruption scandal,” Noa said.
Noa indicated that should legal action be taken against the Namibian Police in this regard that the ACC will render the necessary assistance because of the ongoing parallel investigations.