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FISHROT FILES…I HAVE NO REASON TO FLEE – NGHIPUNYA

By: Justicia Shipena

The former chief executive officer (CEO) of National Fishing Corporation of Namibia (Fishcor) and fishrot accused Mike Nghipunya says he has no reason to flee the country.

Nghipunya said this during his bail hearing in the fishrot corruption scandal, which started in the High Court on Monday.

Nghipunya presented before judge Shafimana Ueitele with him sharing his testimony in his bid to be released on bail.

“Well, I was never tempted to run away because I have no reason to,” he testified.

He argued that he knew of his arrest warrant several months before and did not attempt to flee the country or tamper with evidence.

“I am not a threat to the public,” he said.

Nghipunya said he is prepared to pay a deposit of N$200 000 for his bail should it be granted to him.

Nghipunya started as acting CEO of Fishcor in May 2014.

During the cross-examination, his lawyer Tabang Phatela quizzed Nghipunya over allegations that his appointment at Fishcor was considered improper.

Nghipunya responded, saying, “I thought the last time I checked, everyone starts somewhere. But the knowledge and performance of that person matter. This issue of saying my appointment was improper I don’t think it is anything to go by because I don’t appoint myself. I have also achieved the goals I was sent there for.”

According to him, in the 2016 financial year, the company made a profit of 40 million and thus continued growing when he was there.

“In 2018, the company reported a profit of 64 million. It has been a tremendous achievement. Yes, we are moving millions but for a purpose,” he said.

Nghipunya said the company had employed over 1 000 people in four years in his reign.

Phatela informed judge Shafimana Ueitele that state evidence comprises roughly 80 000 documents that they will need to interpret.

However, with no trial yet, Phatela said it remains unfair for his client to be in custody for a period nearing two years.

In his statement, he also indicated that he strongly feels his client will be acquitted at trial as no strong case exists against Nghipunya.

The state prosecutors have objected to the granting of bail against Nghipunya and his co-accused, citing the severe nature of the case.

Lawyer Lucius Murorua Lucius said they are eager for the trial proceedings to start.

“It will be in everybody’s interest for the trail to begin as soon as possible. We hope that we will navigate the pre-trial processes and complete them soon so that the case is set down for trial,” he told The Villager.

Lucius said that when Nghipunya applied for bail, he was charged with three counts at the magistrate’s court level.

“But since then, one and a half years later, the intendment at the high court, they have now served the new intendment, and that has got more charges than the three. They have indicated that it is 24 charges now,” he said.

Nghipunya’s bail was dismissed last year by the Windhoek High Court on the grounds of public interest and administration of justice.

Nghipunya has been in custody since his arrest on 14 February 2020 for his role in the Fishrot saga on allegations that he used his position as CEO of the state-owned fishing company to allocate fishing rights in exchange for money.

At the same hearing, fishrot accused former justice minister Sacky Shanghala, James Hatuikulipi and Pius Mwatelulo opted to provide a written affidavit rather than an oral testimony during the bail proceeding.

This comes after, Shanghala’s affidavit was leaked and published in Monday’s Namibian Sun newspaper.

According to Namibian Sun, the affidavit indicated that Shanghala said he was held in custody under illegal circumstances.

The accused, who were prepared to make their arguments in court, said they could no longer proceed as planned as their affidavit had leaked in the media.

Judge Ueitele gave the three suspects until Wednesday at 16h00 to submit their written affidavit to the court.

The bail hearing will resume tomorrow at 09h00 at the Windhoek High Court.

Hatuikulipi, Shanghala, Mwatelulo, Nghipunya, Otniel Shuudifonya and Phillipus Mwapopi, former fisheries minister Bernard Esau and his son-in-law Tamson Hatuikulipi are among several individuals and entities accused of accepting bribes and funneling state funds for personal gains.

Justicia Shipena

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