The government has failed to set the process in motion to extradite the three Fishrot-accused directors of Icelandic fishing and fish processing company Samherji, despite a decision to do so.
The Ministry of Justice, which is responsible for mutual legal cooperation with other countries, has been blamed for this state of affairs.
It has now emerged that, despite having been informed in February to get the ball rolling to deliver the three executives to Namibia, nothing has been done to kick-start the process.
The three executives to be extradited are Ingvar Júlíusson, Egill Helgi Árnason, and Adalsteinn Helgason.
They allegedly played a role in the running of Samherji’s operations in Namibia when the company reportedly bribed Namibian government officials and politicians in exchange for lucrative fishing quota arrangements.
The delay in the extradition process has caused friction between the justice ministry and the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC).
The ACC has accused the ministry of delaying investigations and ensuring the three Icelandic nationals have their day in court.
The commission wants Árnason to be prosecuted for his involvement in Esja Holdings and Mermaria Seafood Namibia.
Both Júlíusson and Helgason were financial directors of Samherji’s companies Saga Seafood, Esja Investments and Heinaste Investments.
All these companies are accused of being involved in the Fishrot corruption scandal.
‘TAKING TOO LONG’
The Namibian has seen documents containing details on exchanges between the justice ministry’s acting executive director Simataa Limbo, and the ACC’s deputy director general, Erna van der Merwe.
Van der Merwe wrote to Limbo last Friday, saying the process of finalising the extradition request to Iceland is taking too long.
“It was thus with utter dismay that our office took note of the contents of the recent communiqué received from your ministry, which clearly demonstrates that no attempt appears to have been made to process the extradition request,” she wrote.
Van der Merwe insisted that the ministry should not be concerned about the whereabouts of the Icelandic nationals, including Júlíusson.
She said the ministry should rather focus on finalising the process with the Icelandic authorities.
“The office of the district prosecutor of Iceland confirmed today that Messrs Árnason and Helgason are both residing in Iceland,” Van der Merwe further wrote.
She added: “However, Mr Nepunda (chief of legal services) should not at this point in time concern himself with the exact whereabouts of these Icelandic nationals, inclusive of Mr Júlíusson, but rather give attention to finalising the matter in question and forwarding the same to Icelandic authorities.”
The ACC’s reaction was triggered after Limbo wrote a letter explaining it would be of no success to proceed with the extradition request.
The letter, dated 23 August this year, on which prosecutor general Martha Imalwa is also copied in, reveals the request is intended to be a formality only.
“… although knowing it will be rejected, it is done for the purpose of getting a response, albeit rejected,” Limbo said.
He said once a response is received, Namibia would request the Icelandic authorities to prosecute the three directors on their home soil.
Public international law provides for this, which would then compel the Icelandic government to prosecute the suspects and ensure they serve prison terms in that country if convicted.
Limbo, however, advised the ACC to make use of other options, such as obtaining a red notice Interpol arrest warrant for the three.
A red notice is a request to law-enforcement worldwide to locate and provisionally arrest a person pending extradition, surrender, or similar legal action in case they travelled outside Iceland.
Limbo is convinced there is no other legal instrument Namibia may use to secure the extradition of the three Icelandic directors.
He wrote in the letter that the ministry faced hurdles in finalising the extradition request.
Apart from Icelandic laws, he said minister of international relations and cooperation Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah held a meeting with the ambassador of Iceland which saw no way out.
“… the ambassador made it clear it is forbidden to extradite Icelandic citizens, and any Namibian request to extradite Samherji executives shall not be granted,” Limbo wrote in his letter.
ACC director general Paulus Noa and police chief inspector general Sebastian Ndeitunga both say their hands are tied in the matter.
Noa yesterday said extradition processes are handled by the justice ministry and not necessarily by his office.
He said the ACC will submit an affidavit in case an investigation is conducted, and if there is a need to process the request for extradition.
Ndeitunga yesterday said the red notice option is only effective if the country in which the fugitive is found is cooperating with Namibian authorities.
“If we want to extradite a suspect who committed an offence in Namibia and is hiding in another country, we have to involve the justice ministry. They are the office that deals with red notices,” he said.
Justice minister Yvonne Dausab yesterday said her ministry and the offices of the prosecutor general and attorney general cannot provide answers as they are likely to impact the ongoing investigations and processes of the prosecutor general.
Samherji is accused of bribing Namibian officials, including former fisheries minister Bernhard Esau and ex-justice minister Sacky Shanghala, to access Namibian fishing quotas from 2011 to 2019.
The scandal involves corruption of more than N$3 billion.
Namibian authorities want the company’s directors extradited to appear in Namibian courts for the main trial.