WINDHOEK (Reuters) – Namibia’s state-owned fishing firm Fishcor has suspended its chief executive following media reports that he and other government officials conspired with Iceland’s biggest fishing company to receive kickbacks in exchange for fishing rights.
Fishcor Acting Chairperson Bennet Kangumu told Reuters on Tuesday that CEO Mike Nghipunya had been sent home a week ago, following international and local media reports that he was involved in the scandal.
“We placed him (Nghipunya) on leave to allow preliminary investigations,” Kangumu said referring to investigations by Fishcor.
Fishcor has not previously commented on any role its officials might have played in the scandal.
Reuters was unable to contact Nghipunya for comment.
Two former ministers have been arrested and charged, accused of conspiring with Icelandic fishing company Samherji to receive payments worth millions of dollars in exchange for horse mackerel fishing quotas.
Samherji and the former ministers, Bernhardt Esau and Sakeus Shanghala, have all denied wrongdoing.
Esau, the then fisheries minister, allegedly stripped some private companies of fishing quotas. Fishcor officials, according to the media reports, passed the quotas on to Samherji in exchange for corrupt payments.
The charges against Esau and former justice minister Shanghala, along with four others implicated in the scandal, state they solicited, accepted or agreed to accept 100 million Namibian dollars ($6.8 million) from Samherji’s Namibian subsidiaries from 2014-19 to secure quotas.
Reporting by Nyasha Nyaungwa; Editing by Tim Cocks and Pravin Char