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Africa News of Wednesday, 9 June 2021


Iceland won't extradite Samherji executives

Helgi Magnús Gunnarsson, Iceland public prosecution deputy director Helgi Magnús Gunnarsson, Iceland public prosecution deputy director

Iceland authorities have said they will not hand over Samherji executives to appear in a Namibian court on allegations of bribery and corruption involving more than N$3 billion.

Iceland public prosecution deputy director Helgi Magnús Gunnarsson confirmed this to The Namibian last week.

Samherji is an Icelandic seafood company that is accused of bribing Namibian officials including former fisheries minister Bernhard Esau and ex-justice minister Sacky Shanghala to access Namibian fishing quotas from 2011 to 2019.

Namibian authorities have indicated that they want Samherji officials extradited to appear in Namibian courts for what has been called the Fishrot scandal.

The Samherji trio who face extradition are Ingvar Júlíusson, Egill Helgi Árnason and Adalsteinn Helgason.

“According to Icelandic law, the country does not extradite its citizens. The laws are clear and it is banned,” Gunnarsson said.

Árnason is being charged for his work for Esja Holding and Mermaria Seafood Namibia, while Júlíusson and Helgason were the financial directors of Samherji's companies such as Saga Seafood, Esja Investment and Heinaste Investments.

Gunnarsson told The Namibian that the Fishrot investigation in Iceland is not yet finalised, making it unclear whether all executives will face indictment.

“It is not possible at this stage to answer whether any or all suspects will face indictment in Iceland. That is up to the investigation that is not finalised yet,” Gunnarsson said.

Namibia's Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), completed its investigation into the Fishrot scandal late last year. The commission has since submitted its findings to the prosecutor general, Martha Imalwa.

Imalwa last year submitted in court that Samherji influenced the amendment of the country's Marine Resources Act, using the two former ministers.

According to Gunnarsson, Iceland citizens can be prosecuted in Iceland for crimes committed in Namibia or other countries.

“The authorities in Iceland are investigating possible criminal behaviour of the directors of Samherji and companies connected to Samherji. The basis for the investigation is the same as in Namibia. Icelandic citizens can be prosecuted in Iceland for crimes committed in Namibia,” Gunnarsson said.

The Namibian reported last week that the justice ministry was finalising diplomatic paperwork to extradite the executives.

They based the request on United Nations (UN) treaties, the UN Convention Against Corruption and the UN Convention Against Transnational Organised Crime.

When asked about her views on the revelations by Iceland's prosecution authorities, Imalwa said:

“What do you want from me if you are already answered? Extradition requests of fugitives do not fall under my jurisdiction as the prosecutor general.”