Thursday, April 22, 2021

Namibia: Second vessel belonging to Icelandic fishing firm Samherji disappears amid fishrot corruption scandal

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A second vessel linked to the controversial Icelandic fishing company, Samherji, which is implicated in the unfolding Fishrot scandal, has left the country, leaving fishermen hanging.

Some seamen at Walvis Bay are now accusing authorities and government for not doing enough to stop the Samherji-linked vessels from leaving Namibia waters. This follows after 100 crewmembers of Samherji’s Geysir vessel were left unemployed when the vessel left for Mauritania on Sunday evening without notifying them.

This is the second vessel of Samherji that has left the country for apparent repairs.
Last week, about 120 fishermen were also left hanging, after their vessel Saga left Walvis Bay on Wednesday evening under the impression that it was being taken for repairs in Las Palmas in Spain.

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The vessel is the property of Saga Seafood and is under charter to Esja Seafood Limited, a Samherji subsidiary company in Cyprus – and one of its main international holding companies.

The Icelandic company Samherji is at the centre of the international fishing bribery scandal implicating former Namibian ministers Sacky Shanghala and Bernhard Esau as well as local businessmen.

Samherji reportedly secured access to horse mackerel quotas in Namibia by paying bribes of around N$150 million to politicians and businessmen between 2012 and 2018.

Both Geysir and Saga were among the trawlers used for the horse mackerel quota.
Theophelus Hamutenya, a foreman at Geysir, told New Era that they were informed that the vessel will only return to Namibia once there is a fishing quota available for it.
He added only 32 Namibian fishermen were taken along to Mauritania.

The fishermen now fear that they might not be fully compensated by the company, Saga Seafood, who handles the affairs of the two vessels on behalf of Samherji.

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More shockingly, the Namibian Food and Allied Union (Nafau) branch coordinator Johannes Shayuka said the union last week discovered changes were made to the employees contracts.

“We discovered that the years of employment was changed in some instances and we are currently busy with verification to see that the crewmen are paid accordingly.  One can only imagine what could have happened if we did not pick it up,” he said.

He also told journalists yesterday that a meeting would take place today at Saga Seafood with the crewmen and management to iron out the issue as well as to discuss compensation of the affected workers.

At the weekend, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) had advised authorities not to allow any shipping vessels or persons linked to the Fishrot case to leave the country without notifying the anti-graft agency.

ACC Director General Paulus Noa last weekend said efforts were underway to have Saga returned to Namibia. Another vessel that was also linked to the controversial Icelandic company is Heinaste.  The vessel is currently impounded after its captain was found fishing in a restricted area.

Captain, Angrimur Brynjolfsson (67), pleaded guilty on Friday and will be sentenced tomorrow. In fact, Heinaste was sold to a Russian company, but there is a dispute with local shareholders over its ownership.

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