Namibia: Fishrot Accused Rejects State’s Plea Deal Offer

ONE of the men charged in connection with the Fishrot fishing quotas fraud and corruption case says he rejected an offer to admit guilt on only one of the nine charges he is facing, because he is not guilty of any crimes.

Testifying in support of his application to be granted bail in the Windhoek High Court on Friday, Nigel van Wyk told acting judge David Munsu he refused an offer from the state to plead guilty to a count of attempting to defeat or obstruct the course of justice, while other, more serious charges against him were to be dropped.

“If the state has a strong case against me, why would the state want me to plead guilty to a less serious offence?” Van Wyk remarked.

He further claimed: “Basically it is very clear that the state does not even have a case against me. Not even a strong case – it does not have any case against me.” Van Wyk (35), who has been held in custody since his arrest in December 2019, is charged with two counts of racketeering, three counts of money laundering, a charge of theft involving fishing quotas valued at N$29,6 million, a count of defeating or obstructing the course of justice, a charge of assaulting, resisting or obstructing an authorised officer of the Anti-Corruption Commission, and a count of possessing ammunition without a licence. He has told the court he was employed by a close corporation of two of his co-accused in the Fishrot case, former attorney general and justice minister Sacky Shanghala and his business partner James Hatuikulipi, for about two years before his arrest. During his third day on the witness stand before Munsu on Friday, Van Wyk said in November 2021, when he was set to have a bail hearing in the High Court, the state made an offer to his lawyers that he should admit guilt on one charge of attempting to defeat or obstruct the course of justice.

That charge is based on an allegation that he tried to resist an Anti-Corruption Commission investigator and a police officer when they visited the farm of Shanghala and Hatuikulipi on 27 November 2019 to arrest the two men in connection with their involvement in the Fishrot scandal. Van Wyk said when one of his lawyers had a meeting with prosecutor general Martha Imalwa and prosecutors from her office on 24 November 2021, Imalwa asked his lawyer if he could not also admit guilt on another charge of obstructing the course of justice, relating to an allegation that he removed evidence connected to the Fishrot case from Shanghala’s house in Windhoek on 14 December 2019.

Van Wyk added that – according to what he was informed of – Imalwa suggested as well that he should give a statement in which he said that Shanghala had sent him to his [Shanghala’s] house to remove evidence.

He refused that offer of a plea deal from the state, Van Wyk said. In December last year, the Office of the Prosecutor General again made a plea bargain offer to him, he told the judge.

With that offer, which was made in writing, his current defence lawyer, Mbanga Siyomunji, was informed that if Van Wyk pleaded guilty to one count of attempting to defeat or obstruct the course of justice the state would withdraw the other charges he is facing and have his trial concluded.

Siyomunji was also informed that, considering the length of time Van Wyk has been held in custody, the state would not oppose a proposal that he should be sentenced to pay a fine, together with a suspended term of imprisonment.

He refused that offer as well, because he is not guilty of the crimes he is accused of, Van Wyk said. He stated: “All of us are equal before the law. The state in this matter is not fair. This is not a prosecution, this is persecution. “So, I feel like [my] fundamental rights have been broken.” Van Wyk’s bail hearing is scheduled to continue from 11 to 14 April.

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