By Patience Nyangove
FIFTEEN Namibian fishing companies in a joint venture with an Icelandic company Esja Fishing have opened a case of fraud against the Icelanders after N$120 million disappeared from Arcticnam Investments’ local bank account, Confidente can reveal.
Confidente is informed that the money was allegedly siphoned electronically over a period of one year before the locals detected the alleged fraud.
Confidente can also reveal that although last year Arcticnam Investments, jointly owned by the two parties, realised revenue of over N$450 million, the local partners were informed by their foreign partners that the company had only managed to make profit of N$10 million.
Confidente has learnt that local companies in the partnership were denied access to banking accounts and financial statements of the company’s bank accounts.
The local fishing companies had been instructed by the Ministry of Fisheries to enter into partnerships with foreign fishing companies for capacity building.
This has led local companies to lodge a police case in Windhoek under CR158/08/2016 for alleged theft/fraud/ corruption/ misappropriation of funds against Esja Fishing.
Confidente can also reveal that the foreign partners are now coercing locals to withdraw the police case in exchange of a N$66 million payment. However the locals have so far refused to accept anything less than the N$120 million originally taken from Arcticnam’s bank account without their knowledge.
In a detailed brief (in Confidente’s possession) that was sent to the company’s shareholders and stakeholders recently, Arcticnam board chairperson Henok Nantanga wrote: “Having received the bank statements through the police we saw how funds have been moved from our accounts to Esja related companies without our knowledge and explanation.
“We were furthermore shocked to see that on the 6th of June 2016, an amount of N$40 980 674.52 was moved from Arcticnam to their company called Mermaria without our knowledge and besides the resolution that no amount of over N$5 million should be paid out without board approval or directors’ signatures. We informed all stakeholders and brought this up in our board meeting of August 16 2016. It led to Arna, a representative of Esja getting angry and to threaten a walkout of the meeting and the JVC agreement, saying that the trust has been broken and that they Esja would see if they would continue with the Arcticnam company going forward, just because we went to the police (sic). They further said the patience of their big boss was thin towards Arcticnam (they call the CEO of Sanherji, Mr Thorstein Mar Baldvinsson their big boss) (sic).”
The local partners also allege that they are being denied access to any financial information pertaining to the operation of the company and various requests to their foreign partners had yielded nothing.
“As Namibian Directors we have not been given all material information pertaining to the running of the company. We have requested time and time again for more information. This includes the bank statements of our company. First and foremost management accounts on regular basis but to no avail. It has been noted in various meetings that Esja representatives especially Arna McClure has denied and rejected the notion that we should see our company bank statements.
“Further to the above mentioned happenings, they Jon and Arna told us that Johannes has taken/moved money (around N$230 000) from one of their companies without approval recently, and that they were afraid that Johannes would move money from Arcticnam accounts. In this regard they said they instructed Ingolfur (former employee of Arcticnam), to electronically transfer funds from Arcticnam FNB account to his personal account. And that Ingolfur has indeed transferred funds from our company to his personal bank account without our knowledge,” stated Nantanga.
He added that later that day they were informed that it wasn’t N$2.4 million transferred but instead N$650 000 however when they demanded for bank statements to verify this information their request was completely denied. “This led to us suspecting untoward activities on the Arcticnam bank accounts. If you have an ex-employee still involved in operating the account moving funds on the account, it poses a risk to the business.”
Nantanga also took a swipe at their business partners for unilaterally leasing Arcticnam’s fishing vessel to their own company Mermaria, which is a competitor to Arcticnam.
“In the meantime, Esja representatives refused to accept and purchase/ buy Horse Mackerel quota amounting to 7000 metric tonnes. They say Arcticnam had no money. There was no will nor desire to even negotiate acquisition of quotas for Arcticnam Fishing from Esja representatives besides various efforts by the Board Chairperson, Uukumwe Directors including Epango director Mr Katjimuine to get Arcticnam acquire more quotas for our vessel. “They just want Arcticnam to lease out our vessel to themselves … to their company called Mermaria. We resolved that the vessel could be chartered out to any company provided that we have no quota and that the chartered agreement has been sent and approved by the board. We later learnt that our vessel Heinaste was fishing for Mermaria and to date we are yet to see the chartered agreement and we have not seen money paid into our company for this chartered vessel of ours. The charter fee and other related costs and charges are not known. This brought about suspense that it appears that their interests were more towards their own company Mermaria than towards our JVC company Arcticnam.”
Documents at hand also show the Arcticnam board is still to establish who had transferred the huge amounts of money, under whose instructions, on what grounds and why the board was not informed.
“Why Arcticnam interests not take priority but that of Esja company Mermaria …and use the funds from Arcticnam to benefit Mermaria in acquiring and catching quotas in competition with Arcticnam to benefit Mermaria in acquiring and catching quotas in competition with Arctic am? (sic) Why would Esja be our JV partners and managers of Arcticnam yet they created a competing company with Arcticnam to catch the same fish and look for the same fishing quotas as does Arcticnam?
“Can any board employ a manager who is running a competing company in the same town, in the same office block using the same employees of Arcticnam to run and manage his own competing company called Mermaria? Why all the initial promises to us not materialised? The cold storage, dry fish factory, land based operation, investment in Namibia- no asset of Arcticnam created or purchased in Namibia, vessel importation (registration in our company) Namibians own a company called Arcticnam Investments where the vessel ought to be registered but to date she has not been registered.”
When Nantanga was contacted Tuesday for comment, he refused to say much on the matter choosing to say this only: “We have our issues as partners and we are currently busy dealing with them. We are working on solutions hence there is no need for the newspapers to interfere.”
Efforts to get comment from one of Icelanders managers based in Namibia only identified as Egill proved futile as initially when contacted he had said he was driving and would contact Confidente after 15 minutes. However subsequent attempts to speak to him yielded no result as his mobile went unanswered and a text message sent to him was not responded to.
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015