Jóhannes Stefansson was project manager for Samherji in Namibia in 2016. He started working for the company in 2007.
He was Samherji’s man on the ground and oversaw communications between the so-called sharks, the Namibian fisheries minister, and his bosses at Samherji, Aðalsteinn Helgason and Þorsteinn Már.
“When I was young, I was already very adventurous. I was an exchange student in Panama at age 18. I finished two years of junior college before I started working in fish processing on land and sea in Denmark and Norway, I went to sea in Russia, fishing in the Indian Ocean and then I was a sailor in West Africa for Sjólaskip. I ended up on land in Morocco for an Icelandic company. From there I went to sea for Katla Seafood and then I was in charge of fish processing projects for Samherji in Morocco. Within some three years I was lobbying for sea freezing quotas in Morocco,” Jóhannes replies when asked to explain how he ended up working for Samherji in Africa.
“What kept me going for Samherji in Africa was that I thought we were going to build a big project on land and create lots of jobs. This was just what was said to deceive people. And as time has gone by I realised the extent of the corruption I was involved in, just between Samherji and the sharks. They were creating a kind of monster. A western state was robbing their resources in collusion with corrupt parties in the country. 40% of the people are living in huts: a million people. Access to water is limited. Access to education is becoming a problem. There is 44% unemployment among the young people. I must ask myself. I don't understand how these people can sleep at night.”
When asked, he says he also has difficulty sleeping.
“This has caused me such heartache. That's why I'm coming forward. I am no saint, but I wouldn't betray people, a whole nation, to this extent. My future as an employee, no matter the field, is over. But I will be able to sleep at night if we manage to present this clearly and correctly, if there will be improvements and if the people of Namibia can reap the benefits of the country's resources instead of a western country and a few corrupt men who then watch their people suffer,” Jóhannes says.
Three regulatory bodies in Nambibia, including the Anti-Corruption Centre, have for the past few months investigated Samherji's practices and the alleged corruption of the "sharks."
This investigation was started following the minister's illicit quota allocation in 2014 but was transformed after Jóhannes came forward. He was immediately given the status of whistle-blower in relation to the Namibian government. The investigation itself soon expanded beyond Namibia. Norwegian and Icelandic authorities have been notified.