A former director of the Icelandic fishing company Samherji in Namibia, Stefansson denounced the corruption of several ministers in Namibia and Angola. Stefansson disclosed over 30,000 emails, documents, contracts and other confidential evidences. Stefansson’s revelation led to the resignation of Namibian fisheries minister Bernhard Esau and justice minister Sacky Shanghala, among others.
Stefansson has spent years cooperating with the authorities, including special units of the
Namibian authorities, in what came to be known as the ‘Fishrot’ case. Supported and published
by Wikileaks (https://wikileaks.org/fishrot/), which originally published the leak in November
2019 in cooperation with The Icelandic National Broadcasting Service RUV
(https://www.ruv.is/kveikur/fishrot/fishrot/), Al Jazeera
newspaper Stundin (https://stundin.is/greinarod/samherjaskjolin/) and the Namibian newspaper
(https://investigations.namibian.com.na/special-reports/), and by the legal expertise of former
judge Eva Joly and PPLAAF, he showed resilience despite constant intimidation, harassment and
life risks. When the leak became public in November 2019 than Johannes Stefansson had been
working with the authorities in Namibia since August 2018 or since Johannes went with his team
of protectors to report the Fishrot cases to the Namibian authorities. He also came forward and
reported the Fishrot cases to the Icelandic authorities little before the Fishrot stories became
public in November 2019.
The Fishrot cases
The revelations about the Fishrot case reveal how the Icelandic company Samherji paid bribes –
through tax havens like Cyprus to Dubai and within Namibia – to senior officials in Namibia in
exchange for fishing quotas. The revelations also show how Samherji used various tax heavens
as Cyprus, Marshall Islands and Mauritius for tax evasion, money laundering and other
suspected financial crimes.
With annual revenues of $900 million, Samherji is one of the world’s largest fishing companies.
Johannes Stefansson was Samherji’s Director of operations for Namibia when he met with
Samherji’s director of operations for Africa Adalsteinn Helgason and the son in law of the newly
elected minister of fisheries, Tamson Hatuikulipi. Hatuikulipi is alleged to have agreed to help
Samherji obtain the fishing quotas the company wanted, in exchange for “quota fees” to be paid
to the presidential party, and to several senior Namibian officials and businessmen.
Millions of dollars in bribes have reportedly been paid by Samherji during 2011 to 2019.
In addition, under Namibian policy, only companies which are majority-owned by Namibians are
eligible to benefit from fishing quotas. Samherji therefore became a minority shareholder in its
own Namibian subsidiary, Katla Seafood Namibia (Mermaria Seafood Namibia), the majority
shares being held by a Namibian co-shareholder. Stefansson, however, alleged that the co-
shareholder was only a figurehead for Mr. Hatuikulipi, his cousin James Hatuikulipi and other
Fishrot accused, and the Samherji company actually continued to control its subsidiary and
collect the majority or all of its profits except for the “usage fee” paid to the Fishrot accused in
As Al Jazeera wrote, “the documents disclosed show how they [Samherji] conducted their
operations in Namibia with full knowledge of the corruption there”.
Since the disclosure of the Fishrot cases in November 2019, the Namibian authorities launched a
bigger investigation and issued more international mutual legal assistance requests to several
countries. The Namibian authorities have been working tirelessly on the Fishrot cases from
August 2018very well and very bravely . The Icelandic authorities launched an investigation in
Iceland shortly after the media exposure in November 2019 and other countries have followed as
On January 17th, 2020, Samherji announced that it was withdrawing from Namibia.
The Fishrot cases and related cases are said to be of value of many hundreds of millions
of US$, which the Fishrot-accused Samherji in Iceland and the Fishrot-accused in
Namibia have pocketed from the corruption schemes from 2012 to 2019, where its
suspected well over US$ 15 million has been paid in bribes.
FIC (Financial Intelligent Center) in Namibia has flagged suspected transactions related
to Fishrot cases for around US$ 650-700 millions. The Fishrot cases are said to be linked
to more than 20 countries worldwide.
Shortly after the Fishrot media exposure in November 2019, six Fishrot accused in
Namibia were arrested including Ministers of Justice and Fisheries, the Chairman of the
Namibian state owned fishing company Fishcor, the son in law of the Minister of
Fisheries and a few others. In february 2020 the CEO of Fishcor was arrested, and others
have been arrested since in connection to the Fishrot corruption. They all have remained
in jail since their arrests and are often referred to as called the “Sharks”.
In Iceland six current and former employees of Samherji hold the status of a suspect in
the Fishrot cases including the CEO and one of the main owners Thorsteinn Mar
Baldvinsson. Johannes Stefansson also holds a status of a suspect.
When Johannes Stefansson left Samherji in July 2016 than his life became in grave danger and
he faced many challenges and life risks. There have been multiply attempts to his life and plans
to his life, he has been harassed, intimidated, spied on, attempts have been made to abduct him,
attempts to extort him and so on. There are also strong suspections, that he was poisoned several
times in the end of 2016 and early 2017 and he has since been dealing with late poisoning effects
, that have damaged his health severely. to this day which has come down to his health.
Johannes Stefansson was protected by several bodyguards and protectors during the late 2016
and early 2017 when the attempts where the most serious. These protectors saved his life
multiply times and he has had bodyguards regularly the years after for different occasions. The
life risks were mostly in 2017 and the years after but safety concerns remain high. Johannes
Stefansson has had several good and solid people with him in this journey including strong
protector who have been with him from day one.
Johannes Stefansson was given the great recognition and honor in April 2021 when he was
awarded the WIN WIN Gothenburg Sustainability Award
– Unfortunately, those with the courage to fight corruption and misuse of power most often have
to pay a steep price, and there’s no exception for Jóhannes Stefánsson. With an unfaltering
determination, Stefánsson has defied reoccurring harassment, threats towards his life and
attempts on his life to keep up his fight. This is an individual who has overthrown an entire
industry and strengthened justice for the people; a real hero, in other words, who we are proud to
present as this year’s winner, says the WIN WIN Award jury chairperson Emma Dalväg.
Jóhannes Stefánsson is supported by thePlatform to Protect Whistleblowers in Africa
PPLAAF (La Plateforme de Protection des Lanceurs d’Alerte en Afrique)