Saturday, October 31, 2020

Bank accounts linked to former Angolan Fisheries Minister and her family blocked in Namibian “fish rot” scandal

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THE bank accounts of Angola’s former fisheries minister Victória de Barros Neto, her husband and children have been blocked, following an order from the Angolan attorney general’s office, and at the same time a criminal lawsuit against her has been filed.

The move comes after a Namibian arrest warrant was issued against the former minister, who was dismissed in January 2019, the Jornal de Angola (JA) newspaper reported on Sunday.

In Sunday’s edition, the daily newspaper reported that teams from Angola and Namibia are working together to investigate the involvement of Neto, who is still an MPLA member of the Angolan parliament, in a scheme of corruption, tax fraud and money laundering in which two former Namibian ministers are also involved and are already facing charges.

An Angolan prosecutor and spokesperson of the attorney general’s office, Álvaro da Silva João, quoted by the JA in statements to the weekly Expresso, indicated that the judicial authorities of Namibia and Angola were taking steps in connection with the matter, but noted that, in light of the Angolan constitution, the authorities of Angola cannot extradite an Angolan citizen.

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“What we have done since we’ve learned about this through the international exchange and cooperation office has been to contact our counterpart,” said João, adding that if there are strong indications of criminal acts “we’ll be providing timely information about the progress of the process”.

An alleged US$30-million (about N$445 million) scam was detected by a consortium of investigative journalists from The Namibian, WikiLeaks, Icelandic Public Television (RUV), the Icelandic daily Stundian and the television channel Al Jazeera.

Agencia Angola Press (Angop) has learnt that it all started with an agreement signed between the governments of Namibia and Angola, which outlined the establishment of fishing quotas involving two Namibian companies, Namgomar Namibian and the state-owned National Fishing Corporation of Namibia (Fishcor), and an Angolan firm, Nandomar Pescas Angola.

Supposedly, according to investigators from the Namibian Anti-Corruption Commission, quotas donated by Namibia were then sold to the Icelandic food giant Samherji HF and profits from sales transferred to offshore companies in Dubai and Mauritius.

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Later, the offshore companies sent the money to Angola and Namibia, to companies owned by relatives or acquaintances of ministers.

Among several alleged beneficiaries of the illegal commissions is João de Barros, one of the four children of the former Angolan fisheries minister.

Meanwhile, the ruling MPLA’s parliamentary whip, Américo Cuononoca, has told the Expresso, an Angolan weekly newspaper, that he is completely unaware of this process.

“This case comes as a surprise to me, I have not read anything, nothing has come to my table, nor do I have the information that two former Namibian ministers have been detained in their country over a deal involving comrade Victoria de Barros Neto,” said Cuononoca.

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