Namibia’s justice and fisheries ministers has resigned over bribery claims involving Icelandic fishing firm Samherji.
Justice Minister Sackeus Shanghala and Fisheries and Marine Resources Minister Bernhard Esau quit following media reports they had awarded horse mackerel quotas to Iceland’s biggest fishing firm in exchange for bribes.
Namibian President Hage Geingob said he had accepted the resignations after meeting the two ministers to discuss the allegations, adding they were “innocent until proven guilty”.
Esau denied wrongdoing, saying he had only stepped down to prevent a “media campaign” from tarnishing the ruling South West Africa People’s Organisation (SWAPO) ahead of general elections later in November.
Citing documents gathered by Wikileaks, The Namibian newspaper, Iceland’s national broadcaster RUV and other media reported that the two ministers and the Namibia managing director of South African investment firm Investec had spearheaded a fishing scheme generating kickbacks of at least 150 million Namibian dollars ($10 million) over four years.
Icelandic newspaper Studin reported that Samherji transferred more than $70 million through a shell company in the tax haven Marshall Islands from 2011 to 2018, with part of the money going to Namibian officials.
Also citing documents supplied by Wikileaks, The Namibian newspaper reported that the scheme began in 2014 and included relatives of the ministers and officials from Angola.
The scandal may add to pressure on Geingob and his ruling SWAPO party, with the sparsely populated southern African nation facing its worst economic crisis in decades.
Separately, Norwegian bank DNB said it was investigating allegations that Samherji had transferred the bribes via the bank to the Namibian officials.
Samherji said it had hired a law firm to investigate the allegations.
Samherji said it always acted in accordance with the laws of the countries in which it operated and that it would cooperate with Namibian authorities on the case. The firm was not available for further comment.