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Fish-Rot whistleblower nets 1 million Swedish krona for anti-corruption initiative – Wins leading sustainability award

Fish-Rot whistleblower nets 1 million Swedish krona for anti-corruption initiative – Wins  leading sustainability award

Fish-Rot whistleblower Jóhannes Stefánsson who led the revelation of a widespread corruption scandal connected to fishing quotas in Namibia has won the leading sustainability award of the Gothenburg Sustainability Award 2021, an announcement made  by the WIN WIN Gothenburg Sustainability Awards on Wednesday revealed.

The prize of 1 million Swedish krona will be presented to the Icelandic whistleblower at an award ceremony in Gothenburg in October, the statement said.

The award which is the world’s leading sustainability award, recognises individuals and organizations that fight corruption.

“Successful anti-corruption initiatives are crucial for sustainable development all over the world. The winner of this year’s award and prize of 1 million SEK is the Icelandic whistleblower Jóhannes Stefánsson,” the announcement said.

Between 2011 and 2016 Stefánsson had a leading position in the Icelandic fishing company Samherji. After some time, it was clear to Stefánsson that the company was involved in widespread corruption connected to fishing quotas in Namibia.

With thousands of data files on his computer, he left his position in protest. In 2019 WikiLeaks published the beginning of “the Fishrot Files” – a revelation that came to shake business leaders and the political elite.

“Despite being harassed, threatened and poisoned, whistleblower Stefánsson demonstrates that individuals in the corporate world can join the fight against corruption,” the award organisers said.

“I first started working on the revelation in July 2016, and it has been at a great cost. When I left Samherji, it took me a while to understand what I had been through. But when I realised 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. Therefore, it is a great honour to receive such recognition and to be awarded the WIN WIN Gothenburg Sustainability Award 2021. It also means important financial support that enables us to continue this ongoing fight that is far from over,” said Stefánsson.

The jury chairperson of the awards Emma Dalväg said, “Unfortunately, those with the courage to fight corruption and misuse of power most often have to pay a steep price, and there’s no exception for Jóhannes Stefánsson. With an unfaltering determination, Stefánsson has defied reoccurring harassment, threats towards his life and attempts on his life to keep up his fight. This is an individual who has overthrown an entire industry and strengthened justice for the people; a real hero, in other words, who we are proud to present as this year’s winner,” said

Meanwhile, the jury explained selecting Stefánsson for this year’s award as follows: “Corruption is one of the greatest obstacles to global sustainable development. It affects the world’s most vulnerable the hardest and has a negative impact on society as a whole, as well as the planet itself.

Stefánsson is the whistleblower who exposed the “Fishrot Files”, an extensive corruption scandal with connections to Iceland and Namibia. In 2016 he stepped back from a leading management position within Icelandic fishing company Samherjis in Namibia, in protest against the company’s improper procurement of fishing quotas in exchange for financial services. Jóhannes Stefánsson has since been living under constant threats and even attempts on his life. His bravery highlights the importance of individual acts of integrity, not least within the sectors of industry and commerce. Jóhannes Stefánsson has demonstrated great courage and selflessness in his fight against misuse of power and corruption,” they concluded.


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