The president of Namibia has been implicated in new allegations of corruption involving the country’s lucrative fishing industry by an investigation released by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) and The Namibian newspaper.
According to a lawyer who allegedly arranged the deal, President Hage Geingob instructed his close associates to embezzle millions of dollars from a state-run fishing enterprise in order to bribe electors at the 2017 congress of the ruling SWAPO (South West Africa People’s Organization) party, reports the new investigation released on Friday.
The lawyer, who is not named by the OCCRP, claims that Hage Geingob – elected as President of Namibia in 2014 and re-elected in 2019 – allegedly asked James Hatuikulipi, then chairman of the state-owned fishing company Fishcor, to set up an elaborate corporate structure in order to siphon public funds generated from the country’s lucrative fishing resources.
According to bank records analysed by OCCRP, front companies set up by SWAPO proxies transferred $4.5m through this scheme between July 2017 and November 2018.
A SWAPO-affiliated lawyer was told he would receive payments the size of “telephone numbers” as a fee.
The allegations bring the stench of the so-called Fishrot scandal, originally exposed by Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit in partnership with WikiLeaks and the Icelandic public broadcaster RUV, to Geingob’s doorstep.
The country’s charismatic leader has strenuously denied any implication in what many consider to be the country’s biggest corruption scandal since its independence in 1990.
In undercover footage filmed by Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit in 2019, figures close to Namibia’s president, including his personal lawyer Sisa Namandje and the country’s former Fisheries Minister Bernhard Esau, were recorded discussing the laundering of political contributions to the ruling SWAPO party.
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In the Al Jazeera investigation Anatomy of a Bribe, the former fishing executive Johannes Stefansson, who blew the whistle on corruption he says he facilitated while working on behalf of the Icelandic fishing conglomerate Samherji, alleged that his associates, Hatuikulipi and Sacky Shanghala, had used the profits reaped from the country’s fishing resources to fund Geingob’s 2014 election campaign.
SWAPO’s former General Secretary, Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana, told Al Jazeera that while “the whole country is talking about Fishrot and corruption … it appears this message is not reaching [Geingob and the party leadership]”.