Two Namibian ex-ministers in court over fishing bribery scandal

Windhoek: Namibia’s former fisheries and justice ministers appeared in court Thursday over alleged bribes of $10 million paid by a major Icelandic fishing firm, a scandal that clouded this week’s general election.

Bernhard Esau and ex-justice minister Sackeus Shanghala and four other suspects, including a bank executive, appeared at a magistrate’s court in the capital Windhoek.

According to media reports, they had awarded horse mackerel quotas to Samherji, one of Iceland’s biggest fishing firms, in exchange for bribes.

The judge ordered them to be locked up for the night and to return on Friday for bail hearing.

The scandal surfaced during the final leg of campaigning by the ruling SWAPO party for the election held on Wednesday.

Both ministers resigned but have denied wrongdoing.

They were named in documents published by Wikileaks alleging that Samherji bribed senior officials for continued access to Namibian waters.

Court papers said the two former ministers were key figures in the scandal.

In a statement on Saturday, the Anti-Corruption Commission said its investigations have so far “proven that conspiracy, bribery, corruption, fraud, money laundering and tax evasion were committed”.

The state anti-corruption watchdog said it established that a fisheries agreement between Namibia and neighbouring Angola in 2014 did not benefit ordinary citizens or contribute to the economy.

Fishing is one of Namibia’s key economic sectors, second only to mining.