Samherji managers discussed Namibia bribes

24.09.2021 - 13:40
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 Mynd: RÚV
Aðalsteinn Helgason, former board member at Samherji and supervisor of the company’s Africa operations, wrote in a message to his former colleague-turned-whistle-blower Jóhannes Stefánsson that at some point it could “make a difference to bribe some leaders of these men.”

This is reported on in Stundin today, where new evidence is presented on the Samherji case in Namibia—known there as the Fishrot Scandal. The messages are from 2011, shortly before Samherji carved itself out a niche in Namibia under the Katla Seafood brand. 

Jóhannes revealed when the Namibia affair was exposed that Aðalsteinn had told him he should pay the Namibian fisheries minister money if the opportunity arose. Samherji leaders have so far denied any knowledge of payments made on behalf of the company by Jóhannes, but the new evidence in Stundin today indicates the opposite. 

Communication through assistant’s email 

The newspaper covers the communication between Jóhannes and Aðalsteinn, revealing that Aðalsteinn then sent information on the status of affairs in Namibia to Margrét, the assistant of Þorsteinn Már Baldvinsson, the director of Samherji. The newspaper reports that Þorsteinn Már asked in a 2012 email whether everything really needed to be written down in emails between people. Þorsteinn Már apparently then started answering emails through his assistant’s email account. 

Report on management changed 

KPMG reportedly changed its report into the management structure of the Samherji conglomerate after Þorsteinn Már complained about the first draft. The draft reportedly showed Þorsteinn Már almost as a supreme leader in control of the whole company. The initial report said the director was the only managing director of Samherji and that there were no formal CEOs in other parts of the conglomerate. 

Ágúst Karl Guðmundsson, from the KPMG tax and legal department, said during interview with the district prosecutor that this description of management structure in the report was changed at the request of Samherji. The prosecutor interview reveals that it would have serious taxation implications if all the conglomerate's operations were managed from Iceland. If foreign subsidiaries are controlled by foreign boards of directors, they cannot be taxed in Iceland to the same extent as if they were controlled directly from Iceland. 

Precedent in Sjólaskip case 

Aðalsteinn Helgason warned Jóhannes Stefánsson of this in March 2015, after Jóhannes wrote a memo in which he said the Namibia operation was ultimately controlled from Iceland. Aðalsteinn said in an email that he understood why Jóhannes had written in, but that he should change it so “the tax man” in Iceland would not see it. 

Stundin points out in its coverage that there is tax evasion case precedent in Iceland from when an African fishing company owned by Sjólaskip was found to be actually controlled from Iceland. The brothers Guðmundur and Haraldur Jónsson were convicted for miscalculating earnings of around a billion krónur. 

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