‘Samherji must pay reparations’

400 fishermen lost jobs, some subsequently died by suicide
Three years after explosive revelations came to light in what has now been coined the Fishrot scandal, local and international advocacy groups say Icelandic fishing giant Samherji has not yet paid the price for its role in the corruption saga.
The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) and Transparency International Iceland, along with several other advocacy groups, have called on the Icelandic fishing giant Samherji, implicated in the multimillion-dollar Fishrot bribery scandal, to begin a process of reparation and remediation.

They are also demanding an assessment of the human rights and economic impact of Samherji's Namibian activities.

They have also urged the Icelandic authorities to initiate criminal proceedings and take active steps to address corruption carried out by Icelandic citizens and called upon the Namibian authorities to introduce further governance reforms, particularly by amending the Marine Resources Act, which enabled Fishrot.

"Three years on, Samherji acts with apparent impunity while the communities affected by Fishrot have seen no meaningful compensation and the perpetrators have not yet faced justice. In Namibia, ten Namibian suspects are facing trial, including the former fisheries minister Bernhard Esau and the ex-minister of justice, Sakeus Shanghala," a statement from IPPR and Transparency International Iceland reads.

Lack of action

"The Namibian prosecutor general also brought charges against three Icelandic Samherji executives, but no steps have been taken to extradite these individuals. In Iceland, no formal charges have been laid against Icelandic suspects. Instead, Icelandic police are investigating journalists reporting on Samherji, undermining press freedom and anticorruption efforts."

"The Icelandic response to Fishrot has been called ‘almost embarrassing’ by Drago Kos, chair of the OECD Working Group on Bribery in International Business Transactions," the statement read.

Deadly repercussions

In a statement issued over the weekend to mark the scandal’s three year anniversary, the organisations demand that Samherji commits to a full reparation to affected communities as well as an operational grievance mechanism to address specific issues of local communities and individuals.

Over 400 fishermen lost their jobs after fishing quotas were dubiously diverted from local companies to Samherji.

Several people committed suicide after losing their jobs.

It is further demanded that Samherji’s international suppliers, customers, and business partners review their arrangements with Samherji, in particular, in light of their increasing environmental, social, and governance (ESG) and ethical supply chain obligations and expectations.

Fishrot: The nuts and bolts

The Fishrot scandal surfaced just before Namibia’s general elections on 27 November 2019.

Ten former politicians, businessmen, and lawyers stand accused of bribery and corruption for siphoning off millions of dollars from Namibia’s fishing industry. Fishcor, Namibia’s state-owned fishing company, allegedly transferred fishing quotas from private Namibian companies to local companies in which the politicians involved had interests.

These latter companies were affiliated with Iceland’s largest fishing corporation, Samherji, which allegedly paid millions of dollars in bribes to Swapo leaders for preferential access to Namibia’s rich fishing waters.

Samherji allegedly also used other dodges to avoid paying taxes in Namibia by registering its operations in tax havens like Mauritius and Cyprus, investigative reporters found.

So just about everyone got a cut of the Fishrot pie - except for ordinary Namibians.

A 10th suspect, lawyer Marén de Klerk, has been charged but fled to South Africa, from where Namibia is battling to extradite him. All have denied guilt.

They were netted through a WikiLeaks trove of more than 30 000 documents, including internal emails, provided by former Samherji employee-turned-whistleblower Johannes Stefansson.

– Additional reporting by ISS Today

[email protected]