Namibian court denies former fisheries minister bail in corruption case

WINDHOEK (Reuters) – A Namibian court denied the former Minister of Fisheries Bernhardt Esau bail on Sunday, following his arrest on Saturday alongside a former senior manager of investment firm Investec on charges of corruption.

Esau has also asked the Windhoek High Court to declare the warrant that authorised his arrest and his detention as invalid, but Judge Hannelie Prinsloo postponed the hearing on the validity of the arrest until Tuesday to give the state time to prepare arguments.

Esau and former client manager of Investec Asset Management in Namibia, Ricardo Gustavo, were arrested following allegations they were involved in a fishing scheme that generated kickbacks of at least 150 million Namibian dollars ($10.20 million).[nL8N2831GP]

Esau has denied any wrongdoing. Reuters has not been able to reach Gustavo for comment.

Esau and Justice Minister Sakeus Shanghala quit earlier this month over the bribery claims made in media reports. [nL8N27T5OQ]

The two former ministers are alleged to have awarded horse mackerel quotas to Iceland’s biggest fishing firm Samherji in exchange for bribes. Samherji has said it has hired a law firm to investigate the allegations.

The Namibia managing director of Investec, James Hatuikulipi, resigned two days after the ministers, following media allegations that he spearheaded the scheme.

Namibia’s Anti-Corruption Commission Director-General, Paulus Noa, said warrants of arrest had been issued for Shanghala and Hatuikulipi.

Shanghala and Hatuikulipi are believed to be out of the country and did not respond to requests for comment.

Investec told Reuters on Thursday that the individuals suspected in the case had left the bank and the company had no connection to it. Its former employees had not used their positions at Investec to facilitate the alleged scheme in any way, it added.

($1 = 14.7080 Namibian dollars)

Reporting by Nyasha Nyaungwa; Editing by Mark Potter

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