Fishrot investigations by Samherji completed
30 July 2020 | Fishing
Eirikur Johannsson; Samherji Chairman; “We will … take a stronger and more vocal stand publicly…”
Investigations conducted by Samherji, the Icelandic company at the centre of the Fishrot scandal, have been finalized.
The Samherji board of directors said that it received Wikborg Rein's investigation report in relation to the allegations against the company's operations in Namibia. The board mandated the Norwegian law firm to assist with investigations into relevant facts.
These include allegations of collusion and corruption that were directed at Samherji and the company's operations in Namibia in November 2019.
According to Samherji board chairman Eirikur Johannsson, the company felt that the allegations were without basis.
“For example, the German-owned crewing company Cape Cod was predominantly used to pay wages to crew in several countries, but is portrayed in the media as having been a vehicle for a variety of illegal purposes in relation to Namibia,” said Johannsson.
He added that the company was deeply offended by the portrayal of Samherji as having exploited a developing nation and walking away with large profits.
“The taxes paid in Namibia over the years by entities Samherji invested in, including income tax, employee tax, export levies, import levies, social security and a number of other payments made to the Namibian state, were about 4 billion Icelandic krona. That is remarkable in itself considering that Samherji's operations in Namibia were ultimately unprofitable/loss-making.”
Samherji said that Wikborg Rein has uploaded and analysed more than a million documents.
“A large number of the relevant personnel have been interviewed. Time has been spent on the ground in several countries, including Namibia. The forensic accounting firm Forensic Risk Alliance (FRA) was also engaged and analysed payments and other transactions of interest related to the Namibian business. After eight months of work, Wikborg Rein has submitted a comprehensive report substantiating the factual conclusions.”
Johannsson said that the company commenced with its own investigation and scrutiny to get to the bottom of the allegations.
“We have spent vast internal and external resources on this process. Even though the allegations painted a distorted image of our operations, it was important to the company to show our stakeholders that we take such allegations seriously.”
According to Johannsson, Samherji put a number of measures in place to safeguard against further exposure to wrongdoings committed by individuals long before Wikborg Rein's conclusions emerged.
“All operations in Namibia were stopped in 2019. Samherji's ambition is to be a pioneer in compliance, governance and internal control within the global fisheries industries.”
Wikborg Rein is now in the process of setting up a meeting with the Icelandic District Prosecutor. Several meetings have also been held with Namibian authorities in an effort to explore the basis for similar cooperation there.
“Once Wikborg Rein have met with relevant authorities, we will consider what content contained in the findings can be made public and how to go about this. We need to assess whether publishing information will jeopardize ongoing investigations in any country and whether it will infringe laws and regulations concerning the protection of individuals mentioned in any findings. Other aspects also need to be taken into consideration.”
Johannsson said that his board resolved to leave many allegations unanswered despite the urge to comment on them.
“We want to comment in more detail on the contents of the findings and to rebut allegations that we reacted strongly to when they were made against us last year. We have respected the integrity of the investigation and equally respect the integrity of the ongoing public investigations. We will however take a stronger and more vocal stand publicly in relation to concrete details in the coming weeks.”
Refuting job-loss claims
Earlier this month Samherji refuted claims that they were the cause of hundreds of job losses in Namibia.
“These claims have no grounds. Samherji-affiliated companies only participated in pelagic fishing in the Namibian economic zone, and this was mainly horse mackerel. In 2011, allocation rules were changed for pelagic species in Namibia.”
According to Johannsson, a quarter of the pelagic fisheries quotas were transferred to Namibian companies and individuals, mainly from South African corporations.
“Following the allocation of quotas for horse mackerel, Namibian parties sought cooperation with companies affiliated with Samherji to utilize these quotas. There was no change in the volume of pelagic fish that was frozen at sea between 2011 and 2012 when a company affiliated with Samherji started operations in Walvis Bay.”
Samherji said for this reason, it can be asserted that the number of fishing and processing jobs in the Namibian fisheries sector remained unchanged.
“Jobs were however transferred between companies and vessels following changes in the allocation of quotas. A vast majority of the crewmembers on the vessels operated by Samherji-affiliated companies were Namibian citizens. For example, among the 100 crewmembers on the factory trawler Heinaste, only four were Icelanders, while the others were from Namibia and Eastern Europe.”
The Icelanders also claim that in 2013, companies affiliated with Samherji had about 10% of fisheries quotas in pelagic species in Namibia.
“During the years that Samherji-affiliated companies were operating in Namibia, they purchased all services for fishing and processing from Namibian companies. Therefore, no jobs were lost in acquired services in the Namibian fisheries industry.”