Fast Facts: How the Samherji scandal began

Icelandic group Samherji, one of the world's largest seafood companies, is at the center of a cash-for-quota scandal, beginning with bribery allegations made by former managing director in Namibia, Johannes Stefansson.

Stefansson is now working with Namibian anti-corruption authorities on an investigation, alleging that he made bribe payments to officials on the authorization of Samherji CEO Thorsteinn Mar Baldvinsson.

WikiLeaks published more than over 30,000 documents -- the first of two batches it said it obtained from a whistleblower.

The fallout has been swift, and devastating to the reputation of both Samherji, affiliated companies, the country of Iceland, and banks involved in the financing of the group.

IntraFish is bringing you live updates on the Samherji and Namibia cash-for-quotas scandal. Check back here for the latest, or visit our dedicated page for our full coverage.

Monday, Feb. 10, 23:05 GMT

Samherji blasts seizure of Namibia fishing vessel, threatens legal action

Icelandic fishing giant Samherji is frustrated at Nambian authorities' choice to seize the company linked vessel Heinaste for the second time last Friday. The company will take necessary legal steps in Namibia in court, if needed.


Thursday, Feb. 6, 11:22 GMT

Samherji pulls vessels, leaves contentious boat in hands of Namibians

Vessels have already been retracted, the company said, with only the factory trawler Heinaste remaining in Namibia.


Thursday, Jan. 30, 01:13 GMT

Samherji denies any financial claims against whistleblower

Samherji said it has made no financial or legal claims against whistleblower Johannes Stefansson.


Monday, Jan. 27, 05:17 GMT

Samherji CEO gives look inside company's plans post-scandal

Over time the company has set itself the goals of renewing its fleet of vessels, lowering its carbon footprint and is seeking better ways to handle fish and run operations in a more sustainable way, interim CEO Bjorgolfur Johannsson told IntraFish.


Tuesday, Jan. 21, 21:24 GMT

Samherji CEO: Corruption probe not a smokescreen

Bjorgulfur Johannsson, interim CEO of embattled Icelandic fishing giant has quashed suggestions in the Icelandic media that the investigation into the Namibian cash for quotas scandal by law firm Wikborg Rein is merely a smokescreen that will ultimately clear the company of any wrongdoing.


Tuesday, Jan. 21, 14:34 GMT

Nambians blast Samherji's vessel sale plans

Chairperson of Articnam Investments Virgilio De Sousa told New Era Live that Samherji is trying to sell the vessel at a significantly reduced price through a joint venture with a Russian company.


Tuesday, Jan. 21, 13:00 GMT

Namibia-owned Fishcor given 25,000 metric tons of mackerel quota

As of Jan. 1, 2020, the National Fishing Corporation of Namibia (Fishcor) has been granted an initial 25,000 metric tons of horse mackerel quota by the government.

The company's former CEO and chairperson are still under police custody facing corruption charges.


Friday, Jan. 17, 19:23 GMT

Samherji to impose corporate governance, compliance regimes

The new regimes will come under Samherji group’s future management structure and will cover all subsidiaries.

Systems are expected to be implemented and up and running later this year.


Monday, Dec. 30, 09:23 GMT

Namibian officials denied appeal

Former Fisheries Minister Bernhard Esau and former Justice Minister Sacky Shanghala, along with four other arrested officials, will remain in custody after a judge ruled against their favor, reported The Namibian.


Thursday, Dec. 19, 3:32 GMT

Preobrazhenskaya Base of Trawl Fleet to cancel deal for Samherji vessel

Russian shipping company Preobrazhenskaya Base of Trawl Fleet (PBTF) made a contract with Samherji to buy trawler Heinaste earlier this year for $20 million (€18 million), but PBTF now plans to cancel as the company believes the Namibian authorities may confiscate it, Stundinreported.

The majority of the vessel's shareholders, under the company Heinaste Investments in which Samherji owns a majority, had previously agreed to the sale.


Thursday, Dec. 19, 10:26 GMT

Samherji prosecutor meet in the Netherlands

Representatives of the Icelandic district prosecutor met with Norwegian and Namibian police representatives in the Hague last week to discuss the Samherji case, RUV reported.


Thursday, Dec. 19, 2:02 GMT

Russian fishing giant Norebo sucked into Samherji scandal over subsidiary acquisition

Probing into the Wikileaks documents reveal that Norebo acquired a Katla Seafood-linked group from Samherji in 2013, which Norebo claims was unrelated to any business in Namibia.


Tuesday, Dec. 17, 9:01 GMT

WikiLeaks editor defends missing emails in open letter

On his Facebook page, Kristinn Hrafnsson, editor of WikiLeaks, responded to Samherji's claim that Johannes Stefánsson has withheld mail from a certain period.

Hrafnsson said that emphasis has been placed on publishing immediately the data that formed the basis for the work of journalists RUV, Stundinn and Al Jazeera.


Tuesday, Dec. 17, 8:57 GMT

Namibian officials on trial attempt to appeal against prosecution

The Namibian officials on trial have challenged the legality surrounding their arrest, citing that they were a result of "political pressure," reported New Era Live.

They are currently seeking a High Court order that would set aside their warrants of arrest, remove them from prosecution, and postpone their case to Feb. 20, 2020.


Friday, Dec. 13, 9:04 GMT

Namibian fisheries minister assures former fishermen jobs are on the horizon

Acting Fisheries Minister Albert Kawana spoke to hundreds of former fishermen on Wednesday at a meeting in Walvis Bay, assuring them that he would aim for their re-employment into the sector, particularly for the workers who lost their jobs at Namsov, reports The Namibian.


Friday, Dec. 13, 9:01 GMT

Investigation into Angolan fisheries minister begins

Angolan authorities opened a criminal case against ex-fishing minister Victoria de Barros Neto for her alleged involvement in the Samherji scandal, Business Live reported.

De Barros Neto's assets were also frozen.


Friday, Dec. 13, 8:33 GMT

Namibian fisheries probe may take years

Acting Fisheries Minister Albert kawana says the investigation in Namibia could take years to complete, as it may require amendments to the country's Marine Resources Act, reported The Namibian.


Tuesday, Dec. 10, 16:01 GMT

Samherji whistleblower 'lives under constant threat'

Whistleblower Johannes Stefansson, the former CEO of Samherji's operations in Namibia, says he has faced threats for the past three years from "sharks" involved in Namibia's cash-for- quotas scandal, leaving him constantly on guard.


Thursday, Dec. 5, 14:00 GMT

Namibia's quota system loses its luster

Until the Samherji scandal broke, Namibia was among the few African countries that received global praise for its fisheries management.

Here's a look at what's made its system so robust, and how alleged bribes, arrests of government officials and scrutiny of its quota system have undermined its reputation, and efforts to secure Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification for its Cape hake fishery.



Friday, Dec. 6, 8:00 GMT

Angola getting a pass?

While Angola's fisheries authorities have gotten some scrutiny for its involvement in the cash-for-quotas scandal, the crack down as been nowhere near as swift as in Namibia.

One group fears that guilty parties may escape justice.


Wednesday, Dec. 4, 23:01 GMT

Samherji wants whistleblower's missing emails

According to Samherji, Stefansson sent or received around 44,000 emails between 2014 and 2016, but only 42 percent of those were handed over and presented in the Wikileaks' data dump.


Wednesday, Dec. 4, 13:01 GMT

Protesters unhappy with speed, scope of Iceland investigation

The investigation is still in its "early stages," a Samherji spokesperson told IntraFish. "We are in good dialogue with the [authorities] involved, providing them information and documents and will be so going forward."

Meanwhile, protests continue, calling for the resignation of fisheries minister Kristjan Thor Juliusson.


Wednesday, Dec. 4, 11:01 GMT

Fishcor CEO suspended

National Fishing Corporation of Namibia Fishcor (Fishcor) CEO Mike Nghipunya has been suspended, following media attention that places him in the middle of the Samherji cash-for-quotas scandal, reported Reuters.


Tuesday, Dec. 3, 09:01 GMT

Beginning stages for an investigation in Iceland

Communication has begun between Samherji, the Directorate of Tax Investigations in Iceland and the District Prosecutor, RÚV reports.


Monday, Dec. 2, 10:33 GMT

Charges against Namibian officials announced

Former ministers, Bernhard Esau and Sacky Shanghala, along with the rest of their associates in the Samherji scandal, are formally accused of receiving NAD 103.6 million (€6.4 million/$7.1 million) in bribery payments, reported The Namibian.


Monday, Dec. 2, 9:33 GMT

Money flow from DNB account to Namibian official ended in January 2019

More probing into the Wikileaks archive shows that money flowed from Samherji in Iceland via a DNB account to a Namibian official responsible for distributing fishing quotas in the country, including three transfer from December 2018 to the last day of January 2019, reports IntraFish sister publication DN.


Monday, Dec. 2, 9:40 GMT

Al Jazeera film exposes Namibian officials asking for 'donations'

Al Jazeera, which was one of the news publications leading the investigation into the Samherji cash-for-quotas scandal, has released a film entitled "Anatomy of a Bribe," which includes footage of Namibian officials taking money from Al Jazeera journalists posing as Chinese investors looking for a proposed joint-venture with Namibian fishing company Omualu.


Monday, Dec. 2, 6:40 GMT

Samherji to pull out of Namibia

Wikborn Rein's Geir Sviggum, one of the legal team charged by Samherji's board with aiding investigations, told DN that Iceland's largest fishing company had decided before allegations came about that it would withdraw from Namibia, but that the process is "now accelerating."


Friday, Nov. 29, 9:31 GMT

Samherji's head-to-head with Icelandic media continues

On Thursday, Samherji released a statement stating that "Samherji does not own and has never owned Cape Cod FS and has never assigned others to 'let' the ownership of the company," calling out Icelandic publications Stundin and RUV for saying otherwise.


Friday, Nov. 29, 9:11 GMT

WikiLeaks shows DNB had insufficient information on Cape Cod FS

Documents show DNB allowed customer accounts to exist despite a lack of key information on the companies' actual owners, reported NRK.


Friday, Nov. 29, 3:00 GMT

DNB under investigation in Norway

The Norwegian Police's Department of Economic Crimes has launched a formal investigation into Norwegian bank DNB due to media coverage of the leaked Samherji documents.


Thursday, Nov. 28, 13:11 GMT

Six people now in custody, court appearances begin

There are now six people in police custody in Namibia, with new arrests for former Fisheries Minister Bernhard Esau, as well as Tamson 'Fitty' Hatuikulipi and Pius 'Taxa' Mwatelulo who are both related to former Investec Asset Management Namibia Managing Director James Hatuikulipi.


Thursday, Nov. 28, 3:41 GMT

Baldvinsson steps down from shipping board

Thorsteinn Mar Baldvinsson has also resigned from the board of Norwegian shipping company Rem Offshore, reported e24.


Wednesday, Nov. 27, 14:16 GMT

Samherji and Icelandic journalist battle over scandal reporting

Samherji releases a statement criticizing journalist Helgi Saljan, saying that comments he made on radio show Channel 2 misrepresented the company and were "solely intended to cause Samherji harm."

On Wednesday morning, Seljan said on air that over 1,000 jobs had been lost in Walvis Bay in Namibia due to the fishing company.


Wednesday, Nov. 27, 10:30 GMT

Former Namibian Justice Minister and Investec Asset Management MD arrested

Former Justice Minister Sacky Shanghala and former Investec Asset Management Namibia Managing Director James Hatuikulipi were arrested Wednesday morning, Namibian Police Force Inspector-General Lieutenant Sebastian Ndeitunga told IntraFish.


Thursday, Nov. 23, 4:59 GMT

Samherji CEO steps down from UK seafood subsidiaries

Embattled Samherji CEO and founder Thorsteinn Mar Baldvinsson has stepped down from the board of directors of all UK subsidiaries with ties to Samherji.

According to UK Companies House, Baldvinsson was listed as a director of at least UK subsidiaries. He has stepped down from all of them.


Saturday, Nov. 23, 4:59 GMT

Judge rules against arrest of former Namibian fisheries minister

Bernhard Esau, former fisheries minister for Namibia, was freed from arrest after a high court judge ruled in his favor, The New York Times reported.

The arrest happened the day prior, after a warrant was issued by the Anti-Corruption Commission, which the judge later ruled as invalid. Esau was arrested alongside former client manager for South Africa's Investec Asset Management, Ricardo Gustavo.


Saturday, Nov. 23, 4:59 GMT

Samherji CEO resigns from Nergard board

Temporarily-removed Samherji CEO and founder Thorsteinn Mar Baldvinsson has stepped down from the board of Norwegian harvesting company Nergard group, according to a report in E24. Samherji holds 39.9 percent in Nergard.

Baldvin Thorsteinsson, the CEO's son, will be replacing him on the board.


What were the claims against Samherji?
  • Samherhji allegedly used accounts in Norwegian state bank DNB to transfer $70 million (€77.1 million) from its fishing activities in Namibia through a shell company in the Marshall Islands tax haven. Money was used to pay wages to crews onboard the company's factory trawlers, Stundin reported.
  • Stundin said that part of the money came from Samherji's fishing of horse mackerel in Namibian, Mauritanian and Moroccan waters and that the company paid bribes to officials to secure access to Namibian quotas.
  • Samherji said that since it started fishing in Namibian waters, operations have always been temporary and that agreements were made with various quota holders, but agreements in question have now all expired.


Friday, Nov. 22, 3:54 GMT

Skipper with ties to Samherji arrested on illegal fishing charge

Arngrimur Brynjolfsonn, described as a former Samherji vessel captain by Icelandic state broadcaster RUV, was arrested on suspicion of illegal fishing.

The news emerged in reports by the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC).

In a statement emailed to IntraFish,Brynjolfsonn said that in a 49-year career at sea, he has never been accused of breaking laws or regulations in any way.


Thursday, Nov. 21, 15:30 GMT

Acting Samherji CEO Bjorgolfur Johannsson still optimistic

“Of course I want to believe that the company survives this,” Acting Samherji CEO Bjorgolfur Johannsson said in an interview with Icelandic radio station RAS2.

“It is my role and the management’s to ensure that the company can continue its operations."

No deadline has been put on completion of the probe, he added.


Tuesday, Nov. 19, 17:34 GMT

Iceland drafts action plan to contain political damage

Iceland’s government has drawn up a raft of proposals aimed at preventing damage to Iceland’s global reputation in the wake of the Samherji cash-for-quotas scandal, Frettabladid reported.

Measures falling into seven categories include increased transparency in operations, improvements in international fisheries policies and the prevention of conflicts of interest and bribery.


Monday, Nov. 18, 14:53 GMT

Samherji CEO resigns from shipping company board

Temporarily-removed Samherji CEO Thorsteinn Mar Baldvinsson has resigned from the board of the shipping company Framherji in the Faroe Islands. Thorsteinn was also chairman of the company.

Samherji owns a quarter of the Framherji, which is one of the largest shipping companies in the Faroe Islands.


Friday, Nov. 15, 21:53 GMT

Sildarvinnslan rejects allegations it sought Samherji's advice on Greenland quota grab

News site Frettabladid reported that CEO Gunnthor Ingvason asked Samherji executives named in the publication of documents by Wikileaks how best to cheat Greenlanders in order to secure goodwill and fishing quotas.

Sildarvinnslan denied the allegations, and said the report comes from a misreading of the emails.


Friday, Nov. 15, 12:17 GMT

Investment firm MD resigns

James Hatuikulipi, the managing director of South Africa-based Investec Asset Management, resigned, along with his right hand man and Client Director Ricardo Gustavo, as internal investigations take place.


Thursday, Nov. 14, 21:41 GMT

Icelandic Prime Minister calls for swift action

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


Thursday, Nov. 14, 15:10 GMT

Norway's DNB bank caught up in scandal

Following allegations in Icelandic media stating that Samherji had money transferred through DNB, the Norwegian bank told IntraFish's sister publication Fiskeribladet that DNB closed the customer relationship with the two companies in 2018.

The accounts were closed only after the US-based Bank of New York Mellon refused a transaction from Cape Cod FS, which resulted in an investigation into the Marshall Island company.

DNB is currently investigating the allegations against Samherji.


Thursday, Nov. 14, 13:47 GMT

Namibia fisheries, justice ministers resign

Namibia's fisheries and justice ministers have resigned over their alleged involvement in a corruption scandal involving Samherji, Iceland's biggest fishing company, The Nambian reports.

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


Thursday, Nov. 14, 10:24 GMT

Samherji CEO steps aside

CEO Thorsteinn Mar Baldvinsson was forced to step aside from his position while internal investigations, lead by the Norwegian law firm Wikborg Rein, over the company's alleged wrongdoings in Namibia are underway.

“Samherji employs thousands of people globally so we take this serious step to ensure and demonstrate the complete integrity of the ongoing investigation," Samherji Chairman Eirikur Johannsson said in the statement.

Former CEO of Icelandic Group Bjorgolfur Johannsson is currently acting as Samherji's CEO.


This is a developing story. Keep checking back for updates.


Is fish farming in the Middle East set to boom?

IntraFish's Business Intelligence released its newest report: The Middle East Aquaculture Report. For a FREE sample PDF of the report, please click here or email