The cash for quotas scandal engulfing Icelandic fishing giant Samherji, one of the world's largest seafood companies, has prompted Icelandic Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir to call for swift action by regulators to dig into the allegations that the company dealt out bribes in exchange for access to Namibian harvesting rights.

"This matter needs to be investigated right now. No stone should be left unturned," she said, according to Icelandic news site Vidskiptabladid.

The Prime Minister's comments are just one element of the controversy now swirling around the company, which has so far led to Samherji CEO Thorsteinn Mar Baldvinsson temporarily standing down and the resignation of two Namibian cabinet minsters.

Given the small size of the country and the outsized role the seafood sector plays in the nation's economy, the scandal has cast a cloud over the country's reputation, one of Jakobsdottir's and other public and private officials' concerns.

The importance to Iceland of its fisheries sector cannot be overstated, trade body Fisheries Iceland states in an introduction to visitors to its website, while the organisation's statement on the scandal quickly caught the eye of Icelandic journalists.

"It is clear that this kind of issue can have an impact on the reputation of the Icelandic fishing industry and its position in the international market. Therefore, it is urgent that the matter be investigated and the truth revealed," the organization said, according to the website of Morgenbladed.

Transparent reputation

Iceland was ranked the 14th least corrupt country in 2018, compared with 58th for Namibia among a 180-country list compiled by campaign group Transparency International, making the sense of disbelief in Iceland at the story palpable.

“If proven true, this news, of course, is a shock and the conduct described is, of course, outrageous,” Iceland's Foreign affairs minister Gudlaugur Por Pordarson said, according to the same publication.

The scandal has "flattened the nation," a commentary in Vidskiptabladid read, and went on to warn against following populist politicians who want to use this issue to impose a quota system or join that debate on fishing fees.

Thanks, Wikileaks

The storm facing Samherhji blew up after WikiLeaks published more than over 30,000 documents (the first of two batches) it said it obtained from a whistleblower within Samherji.

The company has been distanced itself from its former managing director in Namibia, Johannes Stefansson, after he made serious bribery allegations against the company.

Stefansson, now working with Nambian anti-corruption authorities, implemented bribe payments to secure fishing quotas on the authorization of Baldvinsson, according to allegations reported by the website of Icelandic bi-weekly newspaper Stundin.

Baldvinsson said he was stepping down from his role while internal investigations over the company's alleged wrongdoings in Namibia are conducted.

Now ex-fisheries minister Bernhard Esau and former justice minister Sacky Shanghala are accused of receiving massive kickbacks in return for doling out fishing licenses, including for Samherji.

In addition, Norway's DNB bank is caught up in the bribery scandal: Samherji allegedly used tax havens and bank accounts at Norway's DNB bank to hide proceeds from illegally obtained fishing quotas in Namibia.