THE decision to seize the moveable and immovable properties of the five suspects in the fisheries corruption scandal now lies squarely on the shoulders of the Prosecutor General and at the same time the Anti-Corruption Commission has requested members of the public that might have information of more assets suspected to be linked to the matter to come forward urgently.
In a statement that was issued shortly after the arrest of Bernhard Esau and Ricardo Gustavo, the Anti-Corruption Commission said the evidence about the properties acquired by the suspects with their ill gotten gains has been shared with the office of the Prosecutor-General to consider initiating civil proceedings against such assets in terms of Prevention of Organized Crime Act (POCA). If more such properties could be identified it could be added to the forfeiture list currently under review by the Prosecutor General.
According to the statement the ACC has been investigating allegations of conspiracies to commit corrupt practices, corruption, bribery, money laundering, tax evasion and related crimes since 2018. The allegations as reported to ACC by whistleblower implicate the former Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Bernard Esau, former Minister of Justice, Sakeus Shanghala, James Hatuikulipi, Fitty Tamson Hatuikulipi, Ricardo Gustavo, and companies owned by some of the suspects.
In order to verify the allegations, ACC obtained sworn statements from potential witnesses and conducted further investigations with an objective to ensuring that supporting evidence is established. This is necessary given the fact that Namibia is governed by rule of law with constitutional supremacy.
The investigation thus far, has prima facie proven that conspiracy, bribery, corruption, fraud, money laundering and tax evasion were committed. The cumulative evidence, either real or circumstantial, testifies to an apparent well calculated strategy meant to legalize a corruption scheme.
The investigations established that the agreement on cooperation in fisheries and aquaculture entered between the Government of the Republic of Namibia and the Government of the Republic of Angola did not benefit the ordinary citizens and or contribute to the economy as by the terms of the Agreement.
ACC’s investigations revealed that companies owned by some of the suspects or proxies were used as conduit to facilitate payments of millions of dollars into other bank accounts of companies linked to the suspects.
Money was ultimately paid into the personal bank accounts of some suspects. In some instances business persons’ bank accounts were used to disguise the ill-gotten money, buy a property and shortly thereafter register the same property in the name of the “real beneficiary” disguising to have sold the property to him.
The Commission has identified movable and immovable assets which are reasonably suspected to be linked to proceeds of crimes. The evidence in this regard has been shared with the office of the Prosecutor-General to consider initiating civil proceedings against such assets in terms of Prevention of Organized Crime Act (POCA).
Evidence to date gathered, justifies ACC’s decision to bring all implicated suspects to justice and answer to the allegations. ACC is fully aware and respect the constitutional presumption of innocence, thus suspects are treated as innocent until proven guilty by the competent court of law.
Fish resources are part of the significant natural resources of Namibia which must be exploited for national benefits like, uplifting the majority of our citizens out of poverty, creating employment opportunities and largely contributing to economic growth.
One of the objectives of the cooperation in the fishery sector between the two countries was to contribute to food security. This objective cannot be realized in a cooperation environment characterized by corruption. In the contrary, investigation findings suggest that technical skills and strategic positions in respective offices and institutions were apparently misused to plunder the national resources in the fishing sector, using foreign bribe-payers to benefit few greedy local individuals and enrich foreign economies where millions of dollars are invested. This is totally unacceptable.
ACC appeals to members of the public who may have information relating to assets suspected to be linked to matter under investigation to come forward and urgently give such information.