SIX Icelandic-owned companies have failed with their attempt to get a court order that would allow their lawyers to cross-examine prosecutor general Martha Imalwa and Fishrot scandal whistleblower Jóhannes Stefánsson in a pending High Court case about restrained assets connected to the scandal.
The six companies’ application to have a Prevention of Organised Crime Act case connected to the Fishrot fishing quotas fraud and corruption scandal referred for oral evidence to be heard, and to be allowed to cross-examine Imalwa and Stefánsson, was dismissed by judge Orben Sibeya in the Windhoek High Court yesterday.
The judge also directed that the companies – the Icelandic fishing company group Samherji’s Namibian subsidiaries Esja Holding, Mermaria Seafood Namibia, Saga Seafood, Heinaste Investments (Namibia), Saga Investment and Esja
Investment – should pay the prosecutor general’s legal costs in respect of their failed application.
Sibeya further turned down the companies’ request to be allowed to argue at this stage of proceedings in the Prevention of Organised Crime Act (Poca) case that this matter against them should be dismissed.
The companies notified the court that they wanted to ask for the dismissal of the Poca proceedings against them, because, according to them, it has not been shown that they would be charged or convicted in the pending criminal case emanating from the Fishrot scandal.
One of the companies’ lawyers, Eliaser Nekwaya, informed the judge after his order was announced that the companies’ legal team has instructions to consider the court’s judgement and the possibility of appealing against it.
The companies, which are alleged to have been involved in large-scale corruption around the use of Namibian fishing quotas, have informed the court that they want to question Imalwa about her intention to have Icelanders Adalsteinn Helgason, Egill Helgi Árnason and Ingvar Júlíusson extradited to Namibia and to prosecute them.
Imalwa decided early last year to charge Helgason, Árnason and Júlíusson in their personal capacities and also as representatives of Esja Holding, Mermaria Seafood Namibia, Saga Seafood, Esja Investment and Heinaste Investments (Namibia).
In April last year, when the three Icelanders were not present when the other accused in the Fishrot case made their first pretrial appearance in the High Court, judge Christie Liebenberg directed that their names be removed from the indictment in the matter.
According to the companies, they want to establish from Imalwa if she seriously intends to charge and prosecute Helgason, Árnason and Júlíusson.
The companies also claim Imalwa knows the Icelandic prosecution authorities refused her extradition request in February last year already. Imalwa is disputing that claim.
They further wanted to be allowed to question Stefánsson to establish if he would be testifying in the Fishrot trial as he has said he would, and to test the incriminating allegations he has made in witness statements.
During the hearing of oral arguments on the companies’ application six weeks ago, senior counsel Raymond Heathcote, representing the companies, said they were not asking the court to compel Imalwa to testify, and that it would be her choice if she refused to testify.
However, they wanted the court to give them an opportunity to cross-examine her, he said.
On behalf of the prosecutor general, senior counsel Wim Trengove argued that if the prosecutor general did not on the documents filed with the court make a case for the granting of a property restraint order in the matter – which is a next step to be taken in the case – then her application to have assets allegedly connected to the Fishrot case preserved in preparation for a later confiscation order would simply fail.
There was no justification for having the Poca matter referred for a hearing of oral evidence, Trengove argued.