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“I am very glad that there is wikileaks. Who else shows the courage?”

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The case of johannes stefansson – no ordinary whistleblower. Rainer winters on the exposure of corruption and money laundering

When it comes to whistleblowers, it gets a little scary. You could open a losing account. Let’s remember with what hopes years ago the platform wikileaks was linked and how then later julian assange is treated. The trial he is being tried for is a political one. He has thrown the power usa under the bus with the material on wikileaks. Journalism and democracy need such revelations.

Even before the edward snowden leaks, there were skeptical or particularly vigilant contemporaries who believed that the surveillance capabilities of the state intelligence agencies were much more sophisticated than the well-behaved "sound mind" the majority of us ordinary burghers thought possible and wanted to believe. Since snowden released his insider material to the public, our understanding of what is actually possible and practiced has changed.

The price is high. By "loss account" is meant that the public enthusiasm for whistleblowers has apparently decreased, the support for them is not particularly rough. This can be seen, for example, in the evasive maneuvers that european governments are making to avoid printing the two famous us whistleblowers. The public prere is limited, which is why the governments have an easy game here with their reasonableness.

"It was never intended that i survive"

How high the price is for whistleblowers is shown by the case of the icelandic whistleblower johannes stefansson, who had "fishrot"-affair got rolling and suffers from severe poisoning symptoms. According to him, he was poisoned by political opponents who wanted to put a stop to him. "I was never intended to survive."

Stefansson was an operations manager at the icelandic fishing company samherji in namibia for several years until 2016, and in the course of his work gained insight into the corrupt machinations involved in the purchase of fishing rights. As a matter of conscience, he passed on material he had collected on the matter to wikileaks. On his laptop he had more than 30.000 documents collected: "emails, memos, presentations, photos and videos on his laptop", which he passed on to wikileaks. From this "fishrot-files".

The stefansson/samherji case is well documented. Al-jazeera stefansson undertook an investigation of his own in order to verify the information. The result of this research confirmed stefansson’s statements and at the same time shows the dimensions of the case: involved are politicians in namibia and many banks in connection with money laundering. The al-jazeera-related article: anatomy of a bribe: a deep dive into an underworld of corruption was translated into german by taz.

He describes in detail and in the course of history, with mentioning names of the "shark clique" and other networks, which led the whistleblower to publish his documents:

He (johannes stefansson, intro. D. A.) spoke of a gross criminal enterprise robbing namibia’s people of profit from their natural resources. He emphasized his determination to bring to justice his former colleagues and business partners: a formidable array of political actors and financial giants in close collaboration with the murky underworld of the sudanese mafia.

Taz, this is how africa’s fish is plundered

In germany, rainer winters (cf. The telepolis-gesprach what is the use of whistleblowing if it is at the expense of the whistleblower??) the confidant of the icelandic whistleblower. Johannes stefansson is expected to make a statement in april, preparing a court case.

For winters and international allies like z.B. Whistleblowing international or whistleblower network news this is an occasion to draw attention to the stefansson case and launch a gofundme rescue campaign. Telepolis spoke with him.

"Democracy is not only a lot of work, but it can also hurt"

Mr. Winters, you are very involved in the stefansson case and are the german confidant of the icelandic whistleblower. What makes this case so special for you?? What should the german public pay particular attention to??

Rainer winters: mr. Stefansson believes he has been poisoned. After all, corruption and money laundering are widespread crimes, especially in africa. But the fact that someone who goes public about this is poisoned seems to me to be a category of which we still have a lot to fear. There are indications that the poison used comes from north korea, a country with which namibia has maintained close contacts since at least the time of president sam nujoma. There are unresolved cases, in which not only poisoning is in question, but also unresolved cases of corruption "suicides" and more.

Furthermore, the moral standards that mr. Stefansson has for himself seem to me to be a driving force for his commitment. The fact that, despite all the dangers to his life, he now dedicates himself to the fight against corruption makes him a highly valuable person for all democratic societies and a respected figure for criminals. Due to his coarse knowledge and the good networking he is in any case no longer a usual whistleblower.

Namibia has a special historical connection to germany. However one classifies this one, by the german-speaking population in this country there are all kinds of points of contact. Take, for example, the namibian-born member of the bundestag for the grunen, ottmar von holtz. Deutsche welle recently portrayed him.

When i asked him to support mr. Stefansson, i met a wall of silence. If his motto is "responsibility for a just world" is, then such people must stand up among us and talk.

Another question is to what extent german fishing companies also use such methods of corruption. Whether it is worthwhile to take a look at samherji’s german subsidiary, deutsche fischfang union in cuxhaven and grob-gerau, is something i cannot yet assess.

Stefansson to testify in april: what’s at stake? Who should be afraid of his statements?

Rainer winters: the preliminary negotiations will start on 22. April. Mr. Stefansson will be on site for the main hearing, but this will certainly not be before spring summer. Currently a lot of people involved are in custody.

Highlighting ex-fisheries minister bernhard esau, ex-justice minister sakeus shanghala, james hatuikulipi as ex-chief executive of the state-run fishcor fishing company, mr. Esau’s son-in-law tamson hatuikulipi, namgomar chief ricardo gustavo, mr. Hatuikulipi’s cousin pius mwatelula and ex-fishcor chief mike nghipunya.

Due to the gross undercover research of al-jazeera and the affidavit of mr. Stefansson in the namibian embassy in berlin, these persons have been in the limelight for some time. But now it looks like namibia’s president is also involved.

Meanwhile, corruption in namibia (and, by the way, also in angola) continues unabated. Now we will see if the country is democratic enough to live according to the goals of namibia’s founding fathers in 1990. What a signal it is on 09. February 1990, when the verfang was unanimously adopted and sud africa had to let go of its de facto colony.

In concrete terms, fishing is only one area where the stakes are high. In addition, the fish grounds are threatened by possible phosphate extraction. The ecological balance of the okavango delta is threatened by fracking oil and gas. To demand gas. The few virgin forests that the country still has are being cut down ever more greedily. In all these traps, we fear that corruption and money laundering are involved. The same corruption that has prevailed for years in the context of uranium and diamond mining.

What consequences have the documents that johannes stefansson made available to wikileaks led to so far?? What other consequences could the trial have had?

Rainer winters: i am very glad that wikileaks exists. Who else shows the courage to disclose such sensitive documents in the first instance?? After al-jazeera researched the documents, the station felt animated to do a rough story. Not everyone does and can do that, also because it costs a lot of money. Here i am glad that qatar, which is currently under so much prere from saudi arabia, is keeping this channel alive.

As al-jazeera released the rough video, it hit like a bomb. For the first time in 30 years, the crude ruling party swapo suffered bitter setbacks in the presidential and national assembly elections. In the regional council and city council elections, they even had to give up their usual majority in many constituencies to opposition parties nationwide. Thanks to the abstentions.

Democracy is not only a lot of work, it can hurt. Now we will see if in the end even president hage geingob will have to take his hat off. But as long as namibia’s two coarse newspapers are allowed to continue reporting, i have little concern for the country.

It is not only about corruption in the awarding of fishing rights, but also about money laundering on a grand scale, which is reminiscent of earlier scandals dealing with tax havens. Fugen the revelations stefansson add new dimensions?

Rainer winters: no. Where money is laundered, banks are present. It is not for nothing that banks worldwide pay billions in fines every year. Our deutsche bank is one of the worst. What is getting better and better, however, is the transparency on the subject. The u.S. Government is equipping itself with more and more tools to bring light into the darkness and to expose misappropriated funds to the people.

Take for example the foreign corrupt practices act, the sarbanes-oxley act or the dodd-frank act. Since bradley birkenfeld, swiss banking secrecy is also finally history. The criminal black boxes in the banking industry are currently experiencing a kind of enlightenment worldwide.

Do you believe the case will have a signal effect in germany as well? What could it look like in the best case?

Rainer winters: already now the signal is: do something for your society and secure democracy and prosperity. Remain honest, also against your conscience. Our banks are making money from corruption. And take it from the corrupt rich, because the poor need it bitterly.

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