Jóhannes Stefánsson, the whistleblower who exposed the massive Fishrot scandal, plans to testify in the October trial of 10 men charged in connection with the massive bribery and corruption case. Stefánsson will travel to Namibia to testify in person despite concerns over his safety. In February, the trial date was set for October 2, 2023.
“For me it’s very good to know now when the main trial starts as I am planning my trip to Namibia where I will testify as a state witness,” Stefánsson told WNN. “There are many things to consider such as my safety, preparation for the trial and the trip in general but I expect to testify for several weeks and therefore stay in Namibia for several weeks.”
“I am happy with this date and also with the progress in Namibia as the prosecutors and the investigators have done very good work and a very brave job on the Fishrot case,” Stefánsson continued. “The trip to Namibia to testify will be one of the biggest challenges as we expect many challenges during that trip and also before the trip but I am and will be ready for all.”
Stefánsson is the whistleblower behind the Fishrot Files, a wide-reaching trove of documents that exposed one of the largest illegal fishing scandals in history. Stefánsson detailed how Iceland-based multinational fishing company Samherji paid millions of dollars in bribes to secure lucrative fishing rights in Namibia. The Fishrot scandal led to the arrests of many high-ranking politicians and business figures in Namibia, and criminal investigations in at least 27 countries.
Stefánsson was the Managing Director for Samherji and oversaw day-to-day operations for the company in Walvis Bay, Namibia. In this role, he observed the alleged corrupt activity at the company. In his Whistleblower of the Week profile, Stefánsson described what he witnessed in regards to fishing quotas in Namibia. Samherji operates in areas where fishing quotas could be “bought, sold, or leased” — the quotas are a way for governments to regulate fishing and set “species-specific allowable catch totals,” according to Stefánsson’s interview.
Stefánsson alleged that “politicians and corrupt businesspeople” would sell fishing quotas to Samherji, which would then cash in with their large catches of fish like horse mackerel. He said in the interview that the alleged corruption “is about this big access to fishing quotas through this corruption with well-connected businesspeople and the politicians.” Stefánsson also said that this way of obtaining fishing quotas was abnormal: “Normally it is local people in the countries who have the fishing rights that get the fishing quotas and sell to companies like Samherji. Fishing rights should not go to politicians.”
As retaliation for exposing the corruption, Stefánsson was fired, harassed, threatened with prosecution – and he claims he was poisoned. In recognition of his bravery in exposing the Fishrot scandal, Stefánsson received the 2021 WIN WIN Gothenburg Sustainability Award.
The October trial involves a litany of charges filed against high-rank Namibian officials, including the former attorney general and justice minister. The charges include counts of fraud, bribery, corruption, racketeering, money laundering and tax evasion.