Sunday, 14 November 2021

"Fishrot Files" - Parts 1 & 2

Today WikiLeaks publishes over 30,000 documents (the first of two batches) it has obtained from a whistleblower within SAMHERJI, a multinational fishing company based in Iceland. They expose corrupt schemes by the company in Namibia to gain access to rich fishing grounds off the African country’s shores.

The documents are dated from 2010 to 2016, the period during which the company gained its foothold in Namibia. SAMHERJI has now become the biggest single recipient of fishing quotas in the country. The documents (which include e-mails, internal reports, spreadsheets, presentations and photos) expose how the company spent millions of dollars in pay-offs to senior Namibian officials and politicians in order to ensure growing and continued access to the country's resources.

It also exposes that lofty promises by SAMHERJI, to build infrastructure in the country and create jobs, were never fulfilled. On the contrary, the company used its international corporate structure to transfer proceeds from the operations straight out of the country. This was done through intermediaries it controls in Cyprus and in the tax-haven of Mauritius.

Today’s released files also demonstrate how these same tools were used to transfer funds to a secret account, set up by SAMHERJI in Dubai, for the sole purpose of transferring kick-backs to the corrupt entities in Namibia.

SAMHERJI currently has operations in Iceland, Germany, Poland, U.K., the Faroe Islands, Canada, France, Spain, Portugal as well as Namibia. The company has been fast-growing in the last two decades and has a turnover in the excess of $700 million.

The documents were provided by Mr. Jóhannes Stefánsson, the former Managing Director of SAMHERJI´s operations in Namibia. He has decided to come forward as a whistleblower and testify about the activities of the company. Mr. Stefánsson is also cooperating with anti-corruption authorities and police in Namibia, who have been investigating the case for close to a year. The Namibian authorities have sought assistance with the investigation from their counterparts in Dubai, Mauritius, Cyprus, Norway and Iceland. The reason for Norway’s involvement is that some of the Cyprus-based companies belonging to SAMHERJI used Norwegian bank accounts to transfer funds.

The first part of the release is published by WikiLeaks in conjunction with reporting by both WikiLeaks and its media partners, Kveikur, the investigative unit of the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service (RUV), the Icelandic newspaper Stundin, and the Namibian daily The Namibian. The second part of the release is expected in 2-3 weeks when Al-Jazeera and other media partners will publish their findings.

Today WikiLeaks releases documents pertaining to the Fishrot case that have come to light as a result of investigation into bribes, money laundering and tax evasion. These investigations have been launched by several institutions across Norway, Iceland and Namibia as a result of WikiLeaks' Fishrot publication earlier this month.

The first document details internal exchanges between staff at DNB, Norway’s largest bank, from April 2018 to 2019, discussing how to respond to AML flagging (anti-money laundering) from Bank of New York Mellon. Specifically it relates to payments from the international fishing company Samherji to JPC Ship Management (Cyprus), a crew management company supplying services to Samherji.

The second document outlines how DNB (the Norwegian bank) carried out a detailed assessment in 2017 of JPC Ship Management in accordance with KYC principles (Know Your Customer) and did not seem to find anything wrong, despite being classified as a high-risk customer. Another company associated with Samherji financial transactions, Cape Cod FS (Marshall Islands), however was evaluated using the very same principles and its accounts were closed as the bank could not determine who the owner was.

The third document shows how DNB finally decided to terminate its accounts with JPC Ship Management only after receiving AML flagging from Bank of New York Mellon:

“Conclusion: The client is not in need of Norwegian account or within LCI strategy. The client does not have AML Policy and there is considerable risk related to transactions to Russia and Ukraine. The necessary resources to manage the sanction risk will be too high and the client has already disrespected instruction regarding resend once. Our recommendation is offboarding the client. “

Also published today is a spreadsheet overview of transactions to and from various bank accounts of companies owned by and linked to the fishing company Samherji. They include Cape Cod FS (a Marshall Island company), JPC Ship Management (a Cypriot company) and Tundavala (a firm in Dubai set up primarily for Namibian entities to receive bribes from Samherji). The Tundavala payments continued at least until January 2019. This spreadsheet is not an original, however it is derived from the original spreadsheet which cannot be published for reasons of source protection. The original spreadsheet has been verified by WikiLeaks and investigative journalists of their media partners.

Fishrot Files - Part 3 will be released soon with the addition to the searchable database.

Al-Jazeera Investigates will air its film “Anatomy of a Bribe” based on the Fishrot Files on December 1st.

Media Partners

Icelandic National Broadcas ting Service (RUV) Investigative program Kveikur

Stundin, newspaper

The Namibian, newspaper

Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation, (NRK)

Al-Jazeera, Investigates

Joseph A. Farell contributed to this Article.

Leaked Documents C-Risk-assessment-JPG-Shipmanagement_Cyprus_LtdB-Cape_Cot_FS_Ltd-DocsA-DNB-Bank-Asa-Mail-re-JPCD-DNB_selected