December 2, 2019 / 4:36 PM / 11 days ago

Accused in Namibian fishing corruption scandal withdraw bail application

WINDHOEK (Reuters) - Two former ministers and four others implicated in Namibia’s biggest corruption scandal will remain in police custody until Feb. 20 after their lawyers abandoned their bail application on Monday, the prosecuting authority said.

FILE PHOTO: President Hage Geingob of Namibia addresses the United Nations General Assembly in the Manhattan borough of New York, U.S., September 21, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri/File Photo

Former justice minister Sakeus Shanghala and fisheries minister Bernardt Esau, along with two former employees of South Africa’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 ($6.8 million) from Samherji’s Namibian subsidiaries from 2014-19 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.

South Africa’s Investec told Reuters last month 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 magistrates 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.

Editing by Tim Cocks, Ed Osmond and William Maclean

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