Illegal Fishing Whistleblower Jóhannes Stefánsson Receives Major International Award

Published on April 21, 2021

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Illegal Fishing Whistleblower Jóhannes Stefánsson Receives Major International Award

WASHINGTON, D.C. | April 21, 2021Jóhannes Stefánsson, whose revelations of bribery and corruption in the international fishing industry led to criminal investigations in more than 25 countries, today received the 2021 WIN WIN Gothenburg Sustainability Award.

Stefánsson was working for Iceland’s largest fishing company, Samherji, when he discovered evidence that the company paid millions of dollars in bribes to win extensive fishing rights in Namibia. The scheme, which became known Fishrot, has ensnared many Namibian politicians and business figures in criminal investigations. Companies and business interests spanning the globe are under growing scrutiny for their potential roles.

The scandal first was aired by Wikileaks in 2019 and since has received extensive international media coverage. It has escalated into one of the largest illegal fishing scandals in history.

“When I realized the magnitude of the financial crimes and corruption – how serious the consequences for the Namibian people were – I never hesitated about what I had to do,” Stefánsson said today.

Stefánsson was severely retaliated against. He was fired, harassed and threatened with prosecution. He believes he was poisoned. The Gothenburg Award’s prize of $120,000 will help Stefánsson receive the medical treatment he has needed since he first began experiencing serious physical symptoms in 2017. His says his health has been in decline since then.

“We cannot think of a more deserving recipient of the Gothenburg award,” said Mary Jane Wilmoth, Interim Executive Director of the National Whistleblower Center. “It is impossible to overstate the value of Jóhannes Stefánsson’s contribution to exposing corruption that not only threatens democracy and fair play, but also local economies in Namibia and the health of marine fisheries.”

“I have never met a person with more integrity and inner-strength,” said Mark Worth, Executive Director of Whistleblowing International. “The name Jóhannes Stefánsson will go down in history as being synonymous with courageous public service.”

The annual Gothenburg Award commends people who work to improve ecological, environmental and social conditions around the world. Previous winners include former US Vice President Al Gore, former EU Environment Commissioner Margot Wallström, Colombian urban planner Enrique Peñalosa, and UK sustainable investment innovator Tessa Tennant.

Stefánsson is scheduled to receive the award and monetary prize at a ceremony in Gothenburg, Sweden on October 21.

For more information, please contact Nick Younger at nick.younger@whistleblowers.org.

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