Þorsteinn Már Baldvinsson, the CEO of the Icelandic fishing firm Samherji, and Namibia’s fisheries and justice ministers, Bernhard Esau and Sacky Shanghala have resigned and the boss of Iceland’s biggest fishing company has stepped aside amid a spiralling scandal over alleged bribes paid to officials in the southern African country in exchange for fishing rights.
Samherji paid more than 1bn Icelandic króna (£6.2m) since 2012 to ensure access to the fishing quotas, transferring the proceeds from the catches, mainly of horse-mackerel, via a web of offshore firms to a shell company in the Marshall Islands. Samherji had channelled about £54m to the tax haven in this way between 2011 and 2018, with some of the money reportedly passing through Norway’s largest bank, DNB, in which the Norwegian state holds a 34% stake.
Johannes Stefansson, a former company employee turned whistleblower, told Icelandic media the company habitually “does whatever it takes to get its hands on the natural resources of other nations”.
Halldóra Mogensen, a Pirate party MP, demanded that the minister answer questions in parliament, adding that “the myth of Iceland’s innocence is dead”.
As global fish stocks decline, Africa’s coastal waters are becoming more and more sought after by international trawler fleets, with Namibia’s resource-rich fisheries particularly prized. It emerged last year that a fifth of the country’s MPs hold shares in fishing companies.
The Namibian newspaper spoke of “a coterie of well-heeled vampires sucking the sector dry”
“No amount of firing of ministers and convicting top officials will fix the looting of state resources, unless loopholes are closed,” the paper wrote. “Corruption is firmly entrenched through laws and policies. It is systemic, and the looters are getting more and more sophisticated to enrich themselves at the expense of ordinary Namibians.”
SOYMB has no doubt that this case is just one of many in many other countries in what is an endemic looting of Africa's natural resources