Iceland-based fishing and processing group Samherji yesterday released a statement ahead of media coverage expected to include potentially damaging allegations about the conduct of a subsidiary company in Namibia.
According to Samherji, a former executive of the Nambian subsidiary, Jóhannes Stefánsson, has been in contact with the Icelandic media to make allegations against both current and former Smaherji executives.
‘We take this very seriously and have engaged international law firm Wikborg Rein, based in Norway, to assist us in thorough investigation of our operations in Africa. Until the investigation has been concluded we will not comment on specific allegations,’ stated Samherji CEO Thorsteinn Már Baldvinsson.
He stated that the company had requested background discussions with staff from Icelandic state broadcaster RÚV, but approaches had been rebuffed as RÚV journalists declined to speak to the company other than with cameras rolling.
‘We believe that the information we hold is of such nature that this would be unreasonable with regards to the interests of individuals concerned,’ he said.
‘All the activities of Samherji and its affiliates have been under investigation by authorities for years and no wrongdoings were ever found. All our accounting, e-mails and all other data were thoroughly examined, including that of the companies that have been operating in African waters since 2007. We will not now, as in the past, accept false and misleading allegations of a former employee who once again are prepared by the same parties and media as in the Central Bank case a few years back,’ Thorsteinn Már Baldvinsson said.
‘At this point in time we believe it is important to disclose that in the beginning of 2016 we came to suspect that something was wrong with our operations in Namibia. In order to get better information, we hired a former police officer from The Special Prosecutor’s office to go to Namibia and look into the matter. His investigation led to the dismissal of the aforementioned employee in mid-2016 for unacceptable behaviour and conduct. Since then our staff has been trying to take control of our operations in Namibia. During this process the former employee, alongside his colleagues, has demanded large sums of money from Samherji.’
Thorsteinn Már Baldvinsson stated that Samherji has made efforts to work in accordance with the laws and regulations that apply in the countries in which it operates.
‘We have worked closely with the government of Namibia, both with the tax authorities and the Bank of Namibia. Since late 2016 all VAT-registered companies in Namibia have been required to undergo a thorough inspection by the tax authorities every two months during which all accounts are reviewed. This applies to our companies, like all other companies in Namibia,’ he said, adding that from the outset it was accepted that the Samherji operation in Namibia would be temporary.
‘We have entered into agreements with various quota holders where the durations have been anywhere between a few months to five years. All the agreements in question have now expired,’ he said.
‘In recent years, the government of Namibia has been implementing a lot of changes in the fishing industry with the objective of Namibianising the fishing industry. Those changes include reducing the use of pelagic trawlers and instead focusing on land-based factory processing with fresh fish vessels. The emphasis on Namibian ownership and management has also increased.’
He stated that as a result, Samherji has already sold one vessel and since the beginning of this year has been negotiating the sale of all other operations in Namibia to domestic parties.