Samherji hf

Operating in a system of resource management where the aim is sustainable fishing

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Samherji CEO steps aside while investigations are ongoing

The CEO and the Board of Directors of Samherji have agreed that the CEO Thorsteinn Már Baldvinsson will step aside for the time being until the pending internal investigation into the company’s subsidiaries’ alleged wrongdoing in Namibia has revealed the key material facts of the matter.

During that period, Björgólfur Jóhannsson will function as acting CEO of Samherji effective immediately. Jóhannsson has been the CEO & President of Icelandair Group, Chair of Fisheries Iceland (SFF), Chair of The Icelandic Employers Association (SA) and CEO of the seafood company Icelandic Group. He will focus on meeting the employees and key stakeholders in the coming days.

The internal investigation, which is assisted by the Norwegian and international law firm Wikborg Rein, will continue at full force, reporting directly to the Board of Directors.

“Samherji employs thousands of people globally. We take this serious step to ensure and demonstrate the complete integrity of the ongoing investigation. At Samherji we are committed to fair and honest business, and we will always strive to act in accordance with applicable laws and regulations, says Eirikur S. Jóhannsson, Chair of the Board of Directors of Samherji.

Samherji has not been approached by any authorities so far, but it will of course co-operate with any relevant authorities that may take interest in Samherji’s activities in Iceland, in Namibia or elsewhere.

“Samherji plays an important role in the fishing industry worldwide and we have a responsibility towards our people and customers. I am deeply saddened by the circumstances, but I will do my best to safeguard the interest of Samherji and its employees”, says Björgólfur Jóhannsson in a comment.

Until the investigation has been concluded we will not comment on specific allegations and the company has no further comments at this stage.

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Statement from Samherji

Samherji would like to make the following statement after coverage about our operations in Namibia in a newscast broadcasted tonight by The Icelandic National Broadcasting Service.

"We were very disappointed to learn that Jóhannes Stefánsson, a former managing director of Samherji's operations in Namibia, appears to have been involved in questionable business practices and possibly entangled Samherji in activities that may be illegal," says Thorsteinn Már Baldvinsson, CEO of Samherji.

Jóhannes Stefánsson was fired from his position in Namibia in 2016 because of mismanagement and unacceptable behavior. Now he has admitted to engaging in illegal activities while managing Samherji's subsidiaries in Namibia.

Until recently, we had no knowledge of the scope and nature of Jóhannes Stefánsson’s business practices and it is uncertain whether they really were the way he describes. As we have already reported, we have engaged the international law firm Wikborg Rein in Norway to investigate the activities in Namibia. In this investigation, nothing will be excluded and we will disclose its findings as soon as they become available.

"We are deeply shocked that Johannes Stefánsson not only admits being involved in illegal activities, he is now also making allegations against colleagues. This is not how we do business. This is not Samherji,” says Thorsteinn Már Baldvinsson.

Samherji has been running a successful international operation for 35 years. We always strive to act in accordance with applicable laws and regulations. Samherji will co-operate with the relevant authorities that may investigate the fisheries industry in Namibia. If such an investigation will take place, Samherji has nothing to hide.

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Statement from Samherji

Press release

It has recently been brought to our attention that a former executive of a subsidiary of the company in Namibia, Jóhannes Stefánsson, has spoken to the media and made serious allegations against Samherji's executives, both current and former. We take this very seriously and have engaged the international law firm Wikborg Rein based in Norway to assist us in  thorough investigation of our operations in Africa. Until the investigation has been concluded we will not comment on specific allegations.

We have especially requested to have background discussions with reporters from the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service, RÚV, to provide information that we believe is relevant to the proposed coverage. Our request has been rejected by the editor because the reporters are only willing to talk with us in front of a camera. We believe that the information we hold is of such nature that it would be unreasonable with regards to the interests of individuals concerned.

"All the activities of Samherji and its affiliates were under investigation by authorities for years and no wrongdoings were ever found. All our accounting, e-mails and all other data were thoroughly examined, including that of the companies that have been operating in African waters since 2007. We will not now, like in the past, accept false and misleading allegations of a former employee who once again are prepared by the same parties and media as in the Central Bank-case a few years back," says Thorsteinn Már Baldvinsson, CEO of Samherji.

At this point in time we believe it is important to disclose that in the beginning of 2016 we came to suspect that something was wrong with our operations in Namibia. In order to get better information, we hired a former police officer from The Special Prosecutor’s office to go to Namibia and look into the matter. His investigation led to the dismissal of the aforementioned employee in mid-2016 for unacceptable behavior and conduct. Since then our staff has been trying to take control of our operations in Namibia. During this process the former employee has demanded large sums of money from Samherji alongside his colleagues.

Samherji has made an effort to work in accordance with the laws and regulations that apply in the countries in which we have operations. In this context, we have worked closely with the government of Namibia, both with the tax authorities and the Bank of Namibia. Since late 2016 all VAT-taxed companies in Namibia have been required to undergo a thorough inspection by the tax authorities every two months during which all accounts are reviewed. This applies to our companies, like all other companies in Namibia.

It has been known from the beginning that the Samherji operations in Namibia were only temporary. We have entered into agreements with various quota holders where the durations have been anywhere between a few months to five years. All the agreements in question have now expired. In recent years, the government of Namibia has been implementing a lot of changes in the fishing industry with the objective of Namibianising the fishing industry. Those changes include reducing the use of pelagic trawlers and instead focusing on land-based factory process with fresh fish vessels. The emphasis on Namibian ownership and management has also increased.

As a result, we have already sold one vessel and since the beginning of this year we have been negotiating the sale of all other operations in Namibia to domestic parties.

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The company

Operating in a system of resource management where the aim is sustainable fishing, Samherji, founded in 1983, is a leading seafood company in Iceland. Outside Iceland, Samherji has or takes part in operations in Germany, Poland, U.K., the Faroe Islands, Africa, Canada, France and Spain.

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Company info

Samherji hf.
Glerárgötu 30
600 Akureyri, Iceland

Phone +354 560 9000
Fax +354 560 9199



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