The Icelandic fishing company Samherji bribed Namibian officials, using the Norwegian bank DNB and a tax haven to transfer 70 million USD between 2011 and 2018.
This was revealed by 30,000 documents leaked to Wikileaks by Jóhannes Stéfansson, former managing director for Samherji in Namibia. It was the results of an investigation by the Icelandic magazine Stundin, the investigative programme Kveikur, and Al Jazeera. The Icelandic state broadcasting channel Rúv aired a documentary on 12th November that described the scandal in full detail.
Samherji is one of Iceland’s biggest fishing companies. Samherji issued a statement on 12th November by Samherji CEO, Thorsteinn Már Baldvinsson: “We are deeply shocked that Jóhannes Stéfansson not only admits being involved in illegal activities, he is now also making allegations against colleagues. This is not how we do business. This is not Samherji.”
A follow-up statement issued two days later made it clear that Baldvinsson was to step aside indefinitely from his position as CEO while an internal investigation proceeded.
The Samherji bribes passed to Namibian ministers Bernhard Esau and Sacky Shanghala in order to gain access to fishing quotas. The invoices had been issued as either rent or “consulting fees,” and the funds transferred using the Norwegian bank DNB. The ministers resigned from their positions on 14th November, just two weeks before the country’s general election.
The Panama Papers, leaked in 2016, had revealed that DNB was involved in establishing offshore firms in the Seychelles.
Iceland has a long history in Namibia. It helped to establish a fishing industry that was intended to empower Namibia. These leaks have shown the pervasive tax evasion, bribery and corruption in a country that has long tried to stem corruption.
Iceland has contributed significant development aid to Namibia, and the strong relations between the two countries laid the foundation for Namibia’s trust in Samherji.
The company’s actions in Namibia will no doubt weaken future trust and relations between the two countries.