Pescanova Affair: The truth beneath the lie
Over the last 14 years, Namibia has lost billions of dollars through a well-calculated fishing scheme.
However, a KPMG audit has discovered the Galician multinational firm, Pescanova, blew up to 1.264% the prices of seafood products sold to 14 instrumental companies with which it operated through fake invoices during the period under review.
At the centre of it, however, is a Namibian national, NovaNam fishing company head of human resources (HR), Dawid Pokolo, whose name was used as a front in most of the illegal dealings across the world, under the pretence he owned NovaNam.
The Villager has dedicated a special spotlight section for the occasion to take a look back at the key events of the last 14 years.
How it all started
Seventeen years ago, Pokolo went to the United States of America for a three-year study, approved by his employers, Pescanova, the parent company of NovaNam
At his return, Angel Tordesillas, the former managing director of NovaNam Limited, which is part of the Pescanova Group, advised the then 29-year-old to go to Spain because Pescanova president, Manuel Fernandez de Sousa, wanted to meet him.
However, before he left, Pokolo was asked, by his superiors, to start a company registered as Pacific Fish Distributors. The instructions came from Tordesillas and former financial director, Geoffe Anderson. The registration would be done by one Gerrie Hough.
In Spain, according to a sworn statement by Pokolo, “I was accompanied by a senior official who took me around. He took me to various offices in Spain and all this had been planned. He made sure I did not get copied from the public offices we visited where they would make me sign documents, not knowing what was really expected of me. I met Manuel Fernandez briefly but we did not discuss anything as initially arranged.”
It was at his return that Pokolo learnt he now owned a Spanish company called CuviMarket SL, bought by Pacific Fish Distributors.
CuviMarket is one of the illegal companies recently liquidated by auditors where Pescanova used to hide money according to a report from auditor BDO, which said three other Pescanova companies, Lafonia Seafoods, World Frost and Polar Limited remained on the auditor’s radar.
In his statement, Pokolo claims Tordesillas and his son, Miguel, who is now running the show from his South African base, were fully aware of what was happening but never bothered to inform him.
“When the media from Spain started calling me as an investor and asking questions about my 899 million worth of shares, I then did more research and started asking the Tordesillases questions. They did not provide me with any answers, hence the hostility started,” wrote Pokolo who is currently on a N$25 000 bail in a pension scam involving NovaNam.
The Villager has also discovered documents showing Pokolo technically owns NovaNam since his CuviMarket holds a 49% shareholding in NovaNam.
In April, NovaNam issued a statement that it would not be impacted by Pescanova’s financial irregularities.
“It needs to be emphasised that this only impacts on the holding company in Spain and in no way directly affects the operations of the subsidiaries throughout the world, which obviously includes Namibia and South Africa,” the NovaNam statement said.
However, our investigations have revealed NovaNam lied.
NovaNam could be particularly indebted, owing more than Euros 400m (N$54 592 000) and a recent reorganisation report of Pescanova says, “the only measure the company can take is to agree with creditor banks to refinance its debt. In addition, its non-strategic businesses can be sold and capitalised to plug an asset hole amounting to a further Euros 1.667m (N$22 751 216).”
Manuel Fernandez de Sousa has since been charged with corporate crime, the use of relevant information, the falsification of the annual accounts and giving economic and financial information, which was supposedly committed during his tenure until bankruptcy proceedings started last April.
Pescanova revealed only on the day of the insolvency filing Sousa had sold half of his 14.4% stake in the company, in the months leading up to the filing without telling regulators, as required by law.
The stake sale would have raised at least N$367m, a third of which the company said he had lent to Pescanova.
This put close scrutiny on the management of Sousa, whom Spanish media said had used to act unilaterally.
Fight over NovaNam:
That Pokolo owns NovaNam through CuviMarket SL is only on paper.
Since the fracas began, top Pescanova officials have been trying to take the company from Pokolo without his input or knowledge.
Emails in The Villager’s possession indicate how one Luis Mediero Cabiedes has asked for the 899 million shares of Pokolo to be transferred from CuviMarket to a new owner, Novapesca.
NovaNam’s current financial manager, Peter Bezuidenhout, wrote an email to BDO auditors requesting the urgent transfer of shares, upon-which BDO refused, because it is illegal.
This was done without Pokolo’s knowledge and when informed, Pokolo contacted his lawyer, Sisa Namandje, requesting for CuviMarket SL financials from BDO.
Contacted for comment, Pokolo this week refused to shed light on the backdoor bickering but insisted, “I did not put in a cent in that company (NovaNam) but they are using my name. All I can tell you is they have been asking for my laptop since the period I was in police custody. I cannot wake up with a billion dollar worth of shares and then you just try to fool me.”
Because of BDO’s reluctance to change the shareholding from CuviMarket to Novapesca without the consent of the owner, Pokolo, the company dumped the audit firm.
Spanish media have reported auditors were kept from visiting various departments (countries) and were only allowed to speak to one authorised executive.
When BDO wouldn’t approve the financial statements, Pescanova hired KPMG for a detailed analysis of its accounts.
Asked why he denies knowing about the operations of his company, CuviMarket, when records in our possession show he had been signing certain documentation, Pokolo hits back; “You can get my passport and verify, I was never in Spain between 2010 and 2012 as the documents allege. They faked my signature. Angel was like a father to me. All along, we had a father-son relationship until I realised they were using me. I do not want to deal with this through the media, so please give me my space,” he said, before switching off his phone.
Pokolo’s signature appears between 2010 and 2012 in a report that clarifies the prices at which fictitious sales were recorded – because there was no movement of goods – and were significantly higher than those conducted with real customers that had been assigned other codes.
Judicial sources have said during the declaration of the accused before National Court judge Pablo Ruz, Sousa said the BDO auditors knew the state of the company, which had a US$4.4b (N$40.4b) debt, because they were dealing directly with the bank without ever investigating the accounts.
NovaNam’s SA accountant flees Namibia
The man sent to clean the mess on behalf of Miguel Tordesillas, Peter Bezuidenhout, has skipped the country. The chartered accountant fled Namibia following The Villager’s persistent calls to his office over his tempering with a South African police clearance. This clearance would have allowed him to obtain a Namibian police work permit, by erasing his criminal record in South Africa.
Bezuidenhout received a police clearance, which stated he had a pending driving under the influence (DUI) case in South Africa. This document could have blocked his chances of getting a Namibian work permit.
The Villager has copies of the original police clearance and the doctored police clearance, which enabled him to eventually get a work permit.
Bezuidenhout was the link between NovaNam and the Tordesillas’ transfer of ownership, which could have had an effect on the companies’ employees in Namibia.
We traced him to a hotel in Cape Town called the Comordos where he is currently based. He has since been asked to resign from the company, to avoid further leaks.
He is expected to leave the company at the end of December, when his three months notice will be served.
Although this investigation has tried to avoid mixing
Pokolo’s current court case with the Pescanova’s
current financial mess, certain pointers could not be
avoided. Attempts to contact Miguel Tordesillas have
been futile, as he was in a meeting the whole of Friday.
The Villager has discovered Pokolo was suspended from
NovaNam the same day he returned from Cape Town, South
Africa, where he had supposedly gone to meet his employers.
He, however, refuses to shed more light on whether or not he
met with his ‘godfather’, Angel Tordesillas, during the trip but
whatever transpired in Cape Town could have necessitated the
On October 7, 2013 (three days after Pokolo was incarcerated
in Lüderitz), a NovaNam lawyer, Jan Olivier, travelled from
Walvis Bay to ask Pokolo to attend a disciplinary hearing in
Lüderitz, on October 8th. The Lüderitz police have confirmed
Olivier met with Pokolo in the office of the Officer in Charge
and that Pokolo refused to attend the hearing on charges of
dishonesty, arguing he was in police custody.
When Pokolo was granted bail on October 14th, the
same lawyer asked for a hearing on October 22nd but Sisa
Namandje replied in a letter dated 18 October 2013, saying
his client would not be able to attend.
The Villager has records of a Dawid Pokolo hearing held
on October 22nd, in the absence of the accused.
In Namibia, Pokolo is a NovaNam employee but in Spain,
he is considered, even by the Spanish media, as an investor
in the business. Our investigation indicates, so far, Pokolo
is the only person who could testify against the Pescanova
chairman and/or bring everyone involved to be legally tried
in Namibia as well.
Pokolo, by mere fact of being involved in the NovaNam
pension scam, is no longer a credible source who can testify
in any court and the best NovaNam can do is let him go. But
how much does he really know?