Reykjavik/Cape Town – Namibian fisheries and justice ministers have resigned after the exposure of their alleged involvement in a corruption scandal involving one of Iceland’s largest fishing companies, Samherji.
Fisheries minister Bernhard Esau and justice minister Sacky Shanghala allegedly abused their positions to secure massive kickbacks in return for securing fishing licenses, including for Samherji, according to local newspaper The Namibian on Wednesday.
Samherji has rejected allegations that it paid large sums to officials in the southern African nation to circumvent fishing quotas.
The allegations were aired late on Tuesday on Icelandic public broadcaster RUV’s investigative programme Kveikur.
Kevikur cited documents – leaked to whistleblowing site WikiLeaks – alleging that Samherji paid hundreds of millions of Icelandic krona to politicians and civil servants in Namibia over the past 10 years.
The waters off the southern African country are rich in fish.
Another source cited by the programme was a former Samherji manager who worked in Namibia until 2016. He was identified as Johannes Stefansson and admitted to wrongdoing in the programme. Stefansson also said profits were channelled out of Namibia.
Samherji chief executive Thorsteinn Mar Baldvinsson rejected the claims and in a statement said the company was "very disappointed" over the allegations that Stefansson "appears to have been involved in questionable business practices and possibly entangled Samherji in activities that may be illegal."
Baldvinsson said Stefansson was sacked in 2016 over "mismanagement and unacceptable behaviour."
The company said it has hired Norwegian law firm Wikborg Rein to investigate its activities in Namibia, and would co-operate with relevant authorities.
Baldvinsson said Samherhji and its subsidiaries have been reviewed by Namibian authorities for years but "no wrongdoings were ever found."
Kristinn Hrafnsson, the editor of WikiLeaks, told RUV that he was approached by the former fishing company manager a year ago.
Hrafnsson subsequently contacted several media outlets including Kveikur, Icelandic newspaper Stundin and broadcaster Al Jazeera.