/ 1 June 2023

Namibian Fishrot saga paymaster arrested in Paarl

Maren de Klerk
Marén de Klerk, the man wanted by Namibian authorities for his alleged role as paymaster in the ongoing multimillion “Fishrot” corruption case, was on Friday granted bail of R50 000

Marén de Klerk, the self-confessed paymaster in Namibia’s ongoing multimillion “Fishrot” corruption case, was arrested by the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI, known as the Hawks) and the South African Police Services (SAPS) in Paarl on Thursday.

De Klerk willingly met the Hawks and police in relation to a matter in which he was allegedly conned out of millions of rand by a disbarred lawyer.

The Hawks said they would issue a statement on the matter at a later stage.

De Klerk is wanted by the Namibian government for corruption, fraud, theft and money laundering. He is accused of using his trust account for the distribution of ill-gotten loot to various accounts in the Fishrot corruption trial in which Namibia’s former fisheries minister, Bernhardt Esau, is embroiled.

The South African government received a request from Namibia for De Klerk’s extradition on 15 October 2021. This came after the high court in Windhoek issued a warrant of arrest for De Klerk. According to the warrant, which the Mail & Guardian has seen, De Klerk faces a maximum penalty of 100 years in prison or a fine not exceeding N$1 billion, or both. 

In 2022, a Paarl magistrate court issued a warrant of arrest for De Klerk, which was followed by the publication of a red notice by international police organisation Interpol.

While De Klerk’s profile does not appear to be on Interpol’s red notice online data portal, the M&G confirmed with the department of justice that he is in fact on the red list.

The paymaster-turned-whistleblower admitted in a 500-page affidavit to having “unwittingly” committed crimes linked to the Fishrot scandal. He told the M&G that his name did not appear on the latest charge sheet. 

De Klerk came to South Africa in 2020 because he feared for his life, he told the M&G in April. At the time, he said he had paid over R3 million into a South African trust account he believed was managed by Ben van Heerden, who offered legal services, despite the fact that he had been suspended in 2016. Van Heerden has since been struck from the lawyer’s roll.

When De Klerk started requesting money from his trust account, Van Heerden undertook to make a payment on several occasions but failed to do so. De Klerk has laid criminal charges against Van Heerden and has escalated the matter to the Western Cape director of public prosecutions. 

De Klerk is expected to appear in Paarl magistrate’s court on Friday for an extradition hearing.