Former cabinet minister Bernhardt Esau has bluntly denied using his office for personal gain, claiming he is an innocent man being targeted by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC).
“ACC is more concerned about colouring me as the main culprit of these allegations, while the lawyers that are directly involved and have received money from Fishcor are roaming free. Some have even been allowed to leave the country. While I, a free man, sits in prison,” said Esau.
Esau (62), alongside his son-in-law Tamson Hatuikulipi (38), applied for bail yesterday in the Windhoek Magistrate’s Court by way of affidavit.
Their lawyer Richard Metcalfe informed the court that the two will not take the witness stand and testify under oath nor will they bring any witnesses to testify in their favour. In a lengthy affidavit that was read into the record by Metcalfe, Esau claims he is an innocent man contrary to the public’s perception.
“The myth that governmental objectives were used by me or other entities for self-gratification are only meant to tarnish my name,” explained Esau.
Esau reiterated that there was no corruption, fraud or money laundering carried out during the execution of his duties as minister of fisheries and marine resources.
“There was no mismanagement or loss of jobs within the fishing sector during my tenure as minister of fisheries and marine resources. Contrary to the perception created, 90 000 people are today equity shareholders in the fishing industry all over the country,” said Esau.
On the allegations that he conspired with his co-accused to siphon N$75.6 million from Fishcor between August 2014 and December 2019, Esau claimed he had no idea that dubious transactions were being made at Fishcor. He even denied Knowing Ricardo Gustavo, former Investec Asset Management Namibia client and director of Namgomar Pesca Namibia. Esau is willing to put up his assets, valued at N$23 million, as collateral for his freedom. His assets include a house in Hochland Park, valued at N$3 million, which was bought in 1996; a farm in Omaheke with a value of N$15 million, which was bought in 2002 with a loan from Agribank; N$3 million from his pension pay-out; cars, and livestock.
The former minister said his incarceration has not only affected him but his family as well. It was his testimony that his family are now under stress, unemployed and are on the verge of starvation.
He claims his water and electricity bills are in arrears, as his wife cannot keep up with the expenses due to his loss of income as minister, member of parliament and farmer.
Some of his livestock were allegedly stolen as well, the court heard.
Should the court find him worthy of being released on bail, he is willing to put up N$50 000 for his release, surrender his passport and would not apply for a new one until the matter has been finalised.
Furthermore, as condition for his release, he will report to the Omaheke police station and will not interfere with ongoing investigations or State witnesses.
The State, who wanted to cross-examine Esau, strongly opposed the notion of him being released on bail pending the finalisation of the case. The State is represented by deputy prosecutor general Ed Marondedze and Cliff Litubezi. They fear Esau and Hatuikulipi will abscond, interfere with investigations. Furthermore, Esau and his co-accused are facing serious charges, which involve a criminal syndicate.
Esau, alongside former justice minister Sacky Shanghala, James Hatuikulipi, Ricardo Gustavo, Tamson Hatuikulipi and Pius ‘Taxa’ Mwatelulo are all facing counts of fraud, bribery, corruptly using office for gratification, money laundering and conspiring to commit corruption.
They reportedly received more than N$103 in bribes from an Icelandic fishing company Samherji for continuous supply of horse mackerel quotas in Namibia.
In addition, the prosecution is charging the group for defrauding the Ministry of Finance when they made misrepresentations to the Directorate of Inland Revenue that Namgomar Pesca Namibia generated revenue of N$14.1 million from 2014 to 2019, whereas the company actually generated revenue of N$40.1 million. Furthermore, they are also, along with suspended Fishcor CEO Mike Nghipunya, accused of fraud after N$75.6 million was allegedly channelled from Fishcor to several law firms and entities in which they had interests. The hearing will continue today before magistrate Duard Kesslau.