Two Namibian ministers of state have resigned in the wake of allegations of corruption and money-laundering that has characterized the country’s fishing industry, ABC News can report.
Bernhard Esau, the Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources and Sacky Shanghala, the Minister of Justice were accused of receiving bribes in return for giving preferential access to Namibia’s rich fishing grounds to Samherji, one of Iceland’s largest fishing companies.
Esau and Shanghala stepped down “following press and media reports in which allegations of corruption have been made against” them, presidential spokesman Alfredo Hengari said in a statement.
The resignations came in the wake of a joint investigation between Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit, the Icelandic State Broadcaster RUV, and the Icelandic Magazine Stundin based on leaked documents provided by the whistle-blowing group, WikiLeaks.
The investigation exposed the roles of well-connected Namibians who facilitated the entry of Samherji’s into the fishing industry.
From 2012, Icelandic fishing company, Samherji made payments to businesses associated with Shanghala worth close to $10m, the investigation found.
Samherji is one of the country’s largest fishing conglomerates with an annual turnover of more than $700m. The company sells its fish to supermarket chains such as Marks and Spencer’s, Carrefour, Tesco and Sainsbury’s.
In a statement, Samherji said it took the allegations seriously and solicited the aid of an international law firm to investigate the matter.
“We are deeply shocked that Johannes Stefansson not only admits being involved in illegal activities, he is now also making allegations against colleagues. This is not how we do business. This is not Samherji,” Samherji CEO Thorsteinn Mar Baldvinsson was quoted as saying.
The Namibian President Hage Geingob in a press release thanked Esau and Shanghala for their “patriotism and contribution to the work of government”.
Two acting ministers have been appointed by Geingob to replace them.
Esau denied allegations of corruption and said “no one has presented [him] with any evidence of monies or favours that Bernhard Esau received” in exchange for “duties as a minister”.
When Shangala was first confronted with evidence against him, he said “I have no recollection of money coming from any relationship with Samherji.”