June 16 (UPI) -- Amid President Joe Biden's push to clamp down on corruption worldwide, his administration blacklisted two former Namibian government officials over allegations of accepting bribes in a sprawling fisheries scandal brought to light by Wikileaks.
The State Department announced in a statement Tuesday that Bernhard Easu, a former fisheries and marine resources minister, and Sakeus Shanghala, a former minister of justice, were being barred from entry to the United States over their involvement in "corrupt acts that undermined rule of law and the Namibian public's faith in their government's democratic institutions and public processes."
The two former ministers resigned from their posts in 2019 after being accused of receiving millions in bribes to grant Samherji, one of Iceland's largest fishing conglomerates, preferential access to Namibia's fishing grounds.
The scandal was brought to light during an investigation into 30,000 documents obtained by Wikileaks from a source within the company.
According to Wikileaks, the documents cover the period of 2010 to 2016 when Samherji gained access to Namibia's waters and shows that it became the largest recipient of fishing quotas in the country through spending millions of dollars in bribes to senior Namibian officials and politicians.
The State Department said the designations also bar their immediate family members from entry to the United States.
"This designation reaffirms the U.S. commitment to supporting anticorruption reforms that are key to Namibia's successful future," the State Department said. "The United States continues to stand with all Namibians in support of democracy and the rule of law, and against those who would undermine these principles for personal gain."
The designations were applied less than two weeks after Biden issued a memorandum June 3 directing agencies to combat "all forms of illicit finance" in the United States and international financial systems.
Biden said that fighting corruption was an economic and national security priority and that he pledges to lead international efforts to make the global financial system transparent in order to support democracy worldwide.
"We will take special aim at confronting corruption, which rots democracy from the inside and is increasingly weaponized by authoritarian states to undermine democratic institutions," he said.