The office of the district public prosecutor has received all documents requested from Namibia related to its investigation into the Samherji scandal, District Prosecutor Ólafur Þór Hauksson has confirmed with Heimildin. The final step will be depositions of Namibia-based individuals, many of whom are held in custody by Namibian authorities on bribery charges.
In the fall of 2019, the story broke that one of Iceland’s largest seafood companies, Samherji, had allegedly bribed Namibian government officials to gain access to lucrative fishing grounds, while also taking advantage of international loopholes to avoid taxes. The story was reported collaboratively by Kveikur, Stundin (now Heimildin), and Al Jazeera Investigates, after months of investigations sparked by the confessions of whistleblower Jóhannes Stefánsson, a former project manager for Samherji in Namibia.
Nine stand accused in Iceland
The district public prosecutor’s office began its investigation in November of 2019. Nine Icelandic individuals are being investigated, including Þorsteinn Már Baldvinsson, CEO of Samherji. He briefly stepped aside when the news broke, but returned as CEO shortly after. In Namibia, ten people have been charged with receiving bribes from Samherji in exchange for fishing quotas. Among them are two former ministers from the Namibian cabinet, the chairman of Fishcor, the National Fishing Corporation of Namibia, and its CEO.
The prolonged investigation, now entering its fifth year, has been criticised, both by the Icelandic public and by the defendants. One of them, former Samherji General Counsel Arna McClure, filed a motion earlier this year, arguing that the case had been excessively delayed. The court did not grant the motion and she remains under investigation. In Namibia, court proceedings formally began last week, when a number of defendants were asked to enter their pleas regarding one aspect of the case. One after the other they refused to enter pleas, while their attorneys either didn’t show up or recused themselves.