Fishrot trial shifted from October to January

The highly anticipated Fishrot trial will no longer commence on 02 October 2023 as planned, as a number of accused persons involved in the matter are fighting to have access to their frozen assets and applying for lawyers through the Directorate of Legal Aid.

The announcement was made in the Windhoek High Court at a status hearing on Wednesday. State advocate, Ed Marondedze, informed the newly appointed presiding judge, Moses Chinhengo, that the State is ready to proceed with the trial in October, and that local State witnesses have already been subpoenaed to appear in court. He, however, indicated that international witnesses have yet to be subpoenaed and will likely only join the trial sessions in January due to the costs involved.

Marondedze also informed the court that the State and defence lawyers concluded that 02 October will not be appropriate for the commencement of the trial, as a number of suspects indicated that they will be lodging applications in terms of section 26 of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act (POCA), to have access to their frozen assets. He added that former justice minister, Sacky Shanghala, wishes to file an application with the office of the Attorney General to pay for his legal fees.

On Monday, former fisheries minister, Bernhardt Esau’s application for the Attorney General to cover his costs was declined. James Hatuikulipi, Tamson Hatuikulipi, Mike Nghipunya, Ricardo Gustavo, Pius Mwatelula, Otneel Shuudifonya, Phillipus Mwapopi and Nigel van Wyk are also suspects.

James’ application to access his frozen assets is pending. Mwatelula and Van Wyk’s applications for legal aid are pending, while Shuudifonya and Mwapopi’s applications for legal aid have been granted.

Gustavo, the court was informed, underwent surgery on Wednesday.

“We will only know about his readiness to proceed to trial after today or at a later stage. He too wishes to apply for access to his frozen accounts. In light of these circumstances, the suggestion is that these issues are unlikely to be solved by 02 October. There is a suggestion that the matter be adjourned until 10 November for another status hearing, to establish if these issues have been resolved. We have thus proposed that the trial begins on 29 January,”Marondedze said.

Source: The Namibia Press Agency