Picture: 123RF/ SUAT DEMIRIZ
Picture: 123RF/ SUAT DEMIRIZ

Windhoek — Two former ministers and four others implicated in Namibia's biggest corruption scandal will remain in police custody until February 20, after their lawyers abandoned their bail application on Monday, the prosecuting authority said.

Former justice minister Sakeus Shanghala and fisheries minister Bernardt Esau, along with two former employees of SA's Investec, are accused of conspiring with Iceland's biggest fishing company Samherji to receive payments worth millions of dollars in exchange for fishing quotas.

Their lawyers declined to comment on the reason for their decision. Samherji has denied wrongdoing, as have Esau and Shanghala.

President Hage Geingob, re-elected in a general election last week, said in an address to the nation on Monday that Shanghala and Esau would be removed from parliament.

“Corruption diverts public resources intended for development and we understand, therefore, the anger of many Namibians on the ongoing allegations of corruption in the fishing industry,” Geingob said.

The fishing scandal involves allegations the former ministers, who quit last month when media reports of corruption surfaced, took bribes in return for awarding horse mackerel quotas to Samherji.

The charges state that the accused solicited, accepted or agreed to accept 100-million Namibian dollars (R99.78m) from Samherji's Namibian subsidiaries from 2014-2019 to secure fishing quotas.

Esau is also charged with awarding a quota for up to 55,000 tonnes of horse mackerel quotas to a private Namibian company, Namgomar Pesca, in exchange for bribes. Its director, Ricardo Gustavo, is Investec Namibia's former clients director and one of the men on trial.

Investec told Reuters in November that Gustavo and the other former employee facing charges, James Hatuikulipi, had left the bank, that it had no connection to the case and that its former employees had not used their Investec positions to facilitate the alleged scheme in any way.

The scandal has shocked Namibians. Protesters gathered outside the magistrate’s court in Windhoek, chanting for the men not to be released on bail.

“We want all the things they bought with our money back. The houses, the farm, we want them back,” youth activist Dimbulukeni Nauyoma told protesters outside court.

Reuters