SAMHERJI’S NAMIBIAN INVESTIGATION FINALISED
Samherji’s Namibian investigation finalised. The Samherji board of directors have received Wikborg Rein’s investigation report in relation to the allegations against the company’s operations in Namibia.
In November 2019 allegations were directed at Samherji and the company’s operations in Namibia. The board mandated Norwegian and international law firm Wikborg Rein to assist Samherji in its investigation into the relevant facts. Wikborg Rein is ranked among the leading Nordic law firms within this particular area of law. The firm’s lawyers have over decades done vast amounts of similar work for Nordic authorities and international companies.
“Already from the outset we knew that some allegations were outrageous and without basis in reality,” says Mr. Eirikur S. Johannsson, Chairman of the Samherji board.
“One such example related to the German-owned crewing company Cape Cod. The company was dominantly used to pay wages to crews in several countries but portrayed in media as having been a vehicle for a variety of illegal purposes in relation to Namibia. We were further deeply offended by the portrayal of Samherji having exploited a developing nation and walked away with large profits. The total taxes paid in Namibia over the years by entities Samherji was invested in, including income tax, employee tax, export levies, import levies, social security and a number of other payments made to the Namibian state, were about 4 billion Icelandic krona. That is remarkable in itself considering that Samherji’s operations in Namibia were ultimately unprofitable/loss-making.
“Other allegations concerned facts about a small part of our global operation in a foreign culture, far from Iceland where we saw a need to have external assistance mapping the relevant facts for us. The alleged facts were simply unknown to us and needed to be scrutinized. So having been faced with serious and fragmented allegations it was very helpful for the Samherji board to receive Wikborg Rein’s comprehensive and balanced review of the relevant facts over the years of operation in Namibia.”
Wikborg Rein has uploaded and analysed more than a million documents. A large number of relevant personnel have been interviewed. Time has been spent on the ground in several countries, including Namibia. Forensic accounting firm Forensic Risk Alliance (FRA) was also engaged and analysed payments and other transactions of interest related to the Namibian business. After eight months of work Wikborg Rein has submitted a comprehensive report substantiating the factual conclusions.
“Having our organization and operations scrutinized is nothing new to Samherji,” says Mr. Johannsson.
“In the so-called Central Bank case Samherji was scrutinized for seven years, after which Samherji emerged fully vindicated and victorious. This time we commenced our own investigation and scrutiny in order to get to the bottom of the relevant facts. We have spent vast internal and external resources on this process. Even though the allegations painted a distorted image of our operations it was important to the company to display to our stakeholders that we take such allegations very seriously, “says Mr. Johannsson.
Long before Wikborg Rein’s conclusions emerged Samherji put in place a number of measures to safeguard against further exposure to wrongdoing committed by individuals. All operations in Namibia were stopped already in 2019. On 17 January 2020 Samherji announced that it was in process of launching a modern state-of-the art compliance program which is being implemented throughout our global organization this year:
That work is already well underway. Samherji’s ambition is to be a pioneer in compliance, governance and internal control within the global fisheries industries.
Samherji will also proactively keep reaching out to relevant authorities that show dedication to mutual cooperation, offering assistance and cooperation during ongoing investigations into the Namibia-related allegations. An agreement is now made for Wikborg Rein to meet with the Icelandic District Prosecutor in the fall. Several meetings have further been held with Namibian authorities in an effort to explore the basis for similar cooperation there.
Once Wikborg Rein have met with relevant authorities there will be a number of considerations to be taken into account in terms of what findings can be made public and how. Samherji need to assess whether publishing information will jeopardize ongoing investigation in any country. Samherji further need to assess whether publishing certain information will infringe upon laws and regulations concerning protection of individuals mentioned in any findings. Other aspects also need to be taken into consideration.
“We have a need to comment in more detail on the contents of the findings and to rebut allegations that we reacted strongly to when they were made against us last year,” says Mr. Johannsson.
“We have respected the integrity of the investigation and left many allegations publicly unanswered despite an urge to comment on them. We equally respect the integrity of still ongoing public investigations. But we will in the coming weeks take a stronger and more vocal stand publicly also in relation to concrete details.
“Samherji firmly denies that its management ever intended for any subsidiary to engage in wrongful activity, including bribery or money laundering, in order to achieve benefits and will rigorously rebut any further allegation to this effect.”