Three years since news first broke that Icelandic fishing company Samherji was bribing Namibian officials in order to get lucrative fishing rights, not a single Icelander has been brought to justice for their part in the crime. Last Friday, Transparency International in Iceland and the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) in Namibia issued a joint statement on this affair.
The statement points out that the scheme “has had a devastating impact on Namibia’s fishing industry, local fishing communities and broader economy. Thousands of local fishermen are thought to have lost their jobs. The impact will undoubtedly be felt for generations.”
Namibian justice was comparatively swift, as “ten Namibian suspects are facing trial, including the former Fisheries Minister, Bernhard Esau, and the ex-Minister of Justice, Sakeus Shanghala. The Namibian Prosecutor General also brought charges against three Icelandic Samherji executives, but no steps have been taken to extradite these individuals.”
In Iceland, by contrast, no criminal investigations are ongoing regarding the people in Samherji directly involved. Instead, as the statement points out, “Icelandic police are investigating journalists reporting on Samherji, undermining press freedom and anti-corruption efforts.”
As such, both Transparency International and IPPR have called upon relevant authorities to do the following:
1. “Samherji to submit to a process of reparation and remediation – to include: an assessment of the human rights and economic impact of Samherji’s Namibian activities; full reparation to affected communities; an operational grievance mechanism to address specific issues of local communities and individuals”
2. “Samherji’s international suppliers, customers, and business partners to review their arrangements with Samherji, in particular, in light of their increasing ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) and ethical supply chain obligations and expectations”
3. “the Icelandic authorities to initiate criminal proceedings and take active steps to address corruption carried out by Icelandic citizens”
4. “the Namibian authorities to introduce further governance reform – particularly by amending the Marine Resources Act, which enabled Fishrot – and to bring those responsible to trial as soon as possible, including applying to extradite the Icelandic suspects without further delay; and”
5. “international governments, including the US, the UK, Germany, France, Poland, the Netherlands, Norway and the Faroe Islands, to take all available steps to ensure that proceeds of crime are not entering their economies through Samherji’s international investments made using proceeds of its Namibian business.”
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