Samherji, the Icelandic company at the centre of the Fishrot scandal, has threatened government with legal action after Namibian authorities seized its Heinaste vessel last Friday.
The Namibian police impounded the controversial vessel on Friday as part of the ongoing investigations into the Fishrot bribery case.
Nelius Becker, the head of the police criminal investigation directorate, said the authorities seized the vessel on the basis of Article 28 of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act (POCA).
“It is our view that the renewed seizure of Heinaste is wrongful under Namibian law and we will now take necessary legal steps in Namibia in court if necessary,” Samherji interim CEO Björgólfur Jóhannsson said in a statement on Monday.
He added that only a convicted person could have their assets seized under Namibian law.
“The owner of the Heinaste has not been charged let alone convicted of any offence.” Previously, the group had stated it was pleased that a case concerning Heinaste and its captain was finally resolved in the Magistrate’s Court of Walvis Bay earlier this month.
He said the vessel captain Arngrímur Brynjólfsson pleaded guilty on three charges of having fished in waters shallower than 200 metres deep, which is a contravention of the quota conditions applicable to the right holders whose quota the Heinaste was chartered to fish.
According to Jóhannsson, Brynjólfsson was duly fined and although the State applied for the forfeiture of the vessel, the court refused to grant a forfeiture order, finding that it was not proven that the owner of the vessel, Heinaste Investments (Pty) Ltd, in which Samherji indirectly holds a controlling interest, did not take all reasonable steps to prevent the vessel from being used illegally.
“The presiding magistrate thus ordered the State to return the vessel’s papers to the owner,” he said.
He said Samherji is concerned that the Namibian police deliberately ignored the court order and refused to return the ship’s papers to the owner, as the court ordered it to do.
“This delays the re-employment of the ship’s crew to the benefit of Namibian society,” Jóhannsson said.