THE State has requested that suspended Fishcor Chief Executive Officer, Mike Nghipunya, join the six others on the main charges of money laundering, fraud and corruption in the ‘Fishrot’ corruption scandal which has made international headlines and has claimed the heads of two ministers, Bernard Esau and Sacky Shanghala.
Nghipunya, better known as Tate Mike, appeared in the Windhoek Magistrate’s court this afternoon alongside Esau, the former fisheries minister, Shanghala, the former justice minister, former Fishcor chairperson, James Hatuikulipi, Tamson ‘Fitty’ Hatuikulipi, the son-in-law of Esau and Pius ‘Taxa’ Mwatelulo, a relative of James’.
Together, the group now faces additional charges to their initial fishing quota corruption charges.
Nghipunya was arrested on Monday by investigators of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) after he was taken in for questioning.
The suspects, with the exception of Ricardo Gustavo, who was not present in court today, have now charges added to their original charges sheet for abusing their offices for gratification on diverse occasions, fraud and money laundering.
It is alleged that from 2014, Shanghala, while he was still serving as the Attorney-General, James Hatuikulipi as the Chairperson of the Fishcor board, Nghipunya as Chief Executive Officer of Fishcor and Esau as Fisheries Minister abused their public offices for their own gratification.
An amount of N$75 million was allegedly received in the form of bribes. The money was allegedly channelled and laundered by investing the loot into different business entities and a certain law-firm of the suspects’ choice.
The state is charging that the accused falsely pretended and misrepresented the Namibian government by issuing fishing quotas.
“The N$75 million was not meant for government objectives, it was not authorised and they were not authorised to channel the said amount,” Magistrate Linus Samunzala read the charge sheet.
Mwatelulo’s involvement in the matter pertains to him allegedly conspiring with Tamson, listed as accused number five.
Shanghala was also made to stand alone in the dock today, while a charge of obstructing and attempting to defeat the course of justice by allegedly attempting to remove evidence from his home in December last year was added to his charges sheet.
In that matter, his employee, one Nigel van Wyk, was arrested by investigators at Shanghala’s luxury home while attempting to remove files, documents and ammunition from the premises.
At the time Shanghala was locked up at the Seeis Police Station on the outskirt of Windhoek.
James Hatuikulipi is also facing a charge of defeating and obstructing the course of justice. He too was made to stand in the dock alone after it emerged that he allegedly attempted to bribe an investigator through a proxy earlier this year in exchange for his personal banking cards, his business banking cards and those belonging to Mwatelula that were being kept in an evidence locker at the ACC.
Jason Iyambo and Sakaria Kuutondokwa was arrested in this regard.
During today’s court proceedings, State Advocate Ed Marondedze objected to the granting of bail for both Shanghala and James Hatuikulipi on the new charges on the grounds of the seriousness of the offence, fear of interference with investigations, public interest, as well as the fear of abscondment.
The matter has been postponed to 23 April 2020 for further police investigations.
The defence team consists of Lucius Murorua, the late Lazarus Kandara’s lawyer, Florian Beukes, Advocate Thabang Phatelo and Milton Engelbrecht.
Gustavo, along with those who appeared in court today, will again appear in court on Thursday, as well as Iyambo and Sakaria Kuutondokwa, a former police reservist implicated in the matter, to face the original charges against them.