TWO of the men implicated in the large-scale fisheries corruption scandal have approached the High Court of Namibia with an application that seeks an order for the recusal of Judge Orben Sibeya from the matter.
Tamson ‘Fitty’ Hatuikulip, the son-in-law of former fisheries minister Bernhard Esau, states in his affidavit the judge had prior knowledge of another application when he sat at the bench to hear the appeal against a judgement that denied them bail in the Magistrate’s Court.
Hatuikulip claims that the prior knowledge also influenced the Judge’s bias against him and his father-in-law when he heard their appeal and he fears that that bias will continue into their eventual trial.
He argues in his founding affidavit that the judge actively sought facts from the application to have some of their companies and property released that were seized under the Prevention of Organised Crime Act instead of reading through the document that consists of more than 6 000 pages.
At the same time, another one of the implicated persons also approached the High Court with a recusal application.
Ricardo Gustavo in his founding affidavit states that Judge Sibeya is a personal friend of Prosecutor General Martha Imalwa due to the fact that they worked together in the Office of the Prosecutor General for years.
Gustavo states that Judge Sibeya represented Imalwa’s son in a criminal case a few years ago and that the son of the lead prosecutor in the case against the Fishrot accused, Advocate Ed Marondedze, has been working for Judge Sibeya’s law practice since 2019.
In her responding affidavit, Imalwa dismissed the allegations made by Gustavo with regards to bias against him in the application to have some of his properties released.
The Prosecutor General stated that the onus rests with the applicant to rebut the impartiality or bias of a judge prising over a matter.
The court where the recusal application has been filed is awaiting answering affidavits from the applicants. The affidavits are expected to be filed today and that written heads of argument must be filed by 26 March 2021.
The presiding judge will determine the status of the matter on 30 March when the application process is set to continue.