THE illegal activity of the Icelandic multinational company central in the fish corruption scandal in Namibia, Angola and Iceland is still fishing in Namibian waters.
The illegal activity in Namibian waters came to light with the arrest of two more fishing vessel captains earlier this week. The arrest of Kristian Arngrimur Brynjolfsonn and Iurii Festison upon their arrival in the port of Walvis Bay brings the number of vessel masters to be arrested for harvesting marine resources subject to quota or permitted by-catch without a right, an exploratory right or a fishing agreement, to five.
Brynjolfsonn is directly employed by Samherji and he operates a factory trawler owned by the company. Like the three other vessel masters, two Russians and a Namibian, who were arrested over the past three weeks, both Brynjolfsonn and Festison were granted bail of N$100 000 each after their first appearance in the Walvis Bay Magistrate’s Court.
Factory trawlers or freezing trawlers are about four times the size of normal fishing vessels. The crew on board processes the fish directly after being caught and the fish is then frozen until it is offloaded in a harbour or transhipped to bigger cargo vessels at sea.
After the arrest of local fishing vessel skipper, Leon Visser, on the same charges, talk amongst the Walvis Bay fishing community is rife that the string of arrests was instigated by the captain of the another Samherji fishing vessel, the Heinaste, before he absconded back to Iceland. The Icelandic captain implicated two more vessel captains which are still to be arrested when they arrive back in port.
After transhipping its catch to a cargo vessel at sea, the Heinaste sailed to the port of Walvis Bay where it is still at anchor in the bay. The skipper and most of the crew has left for Iceland shortly after.
The fish corruption scandal erupted a few days after the arrest of the Namibian skipper.
Since then Bernhard Esau and Sacky Shanghala resigned from their portfolios as Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources and Minister of Justice respectively.
James Hatuikulip resigned from his position as Managing Director of Investec Asset Management in Namibia with immediate effect last week while another senior manager at Investec, Ricardo Gustavo has been suspended from his position at the company pending the outcome of an ongoing independent investigation.
James Hatuikulipi is related to the former minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources Bernhard Esau’s son-in-law, Fitty Tamson Hatuikulipi.
The two Hatuikulipis and the former Minister of Justice, Sacky Shanghala are alleged to have received at least N$150 million in ‘facilitation fees’ from Samherji.
James Hatuikulipi also served as the chairman of the state owned National Fishing Corporation’s board and since he was implicated in the corruption scandal, the Minister of Public Enterprises, Leon Jooste, has formally requested the acting Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Dr.Albert Kawana, to remove him.
Minister Jooste also requested that Dr. Kawana to instruct the Fishcor board to either dismiss the state owned company’s Chief Executive Officer, Mike Nghipunya or alternatively suspend him with immediate effect until a thorough investigation into the allegations of fraud and corruption is completed.
It is alleged that the five captains that were arrested over the past three weeks trawled for horse mackerel in sensitive areas vital for the breeding and spawning Namibia’s most precious fish resource in the area of the Kunene River’s mouth.
Some fishing companies responded to the allegations by saying it is normal practice for the masters of fishing vessels to sail in shallow water to reach the fishing grounds to the north west of Walvis Bay.