The accused claim that they were seeking refuge in the Senegalese capital to flee Guinea-Bissau and their boss who reportedly threatened to kill them. The latter swears that his employees illegally changed course with their cargo of fish. Plunged into a fantastic affair that required the DIC a little more than two months of investigation.
On 19 May 2023, the Prosecutor of the Republic sent to Chione a copy of the complaint filed by Hossam Koumayha. They are Salem Tahan and Ali Kanoun. The complainant is a shipowner based in Guinea-Bissau. He is the owner of the fishing company called Ocean Fishing Bissau SARL. His company has fishing boats and units for freezing fish products.
Tahan and Kanoun are Egyptian. They were employed by Koumayha as captains of the “Hassan & Fekry” and “Aleman” boats, respectively. They were referred to the prosecution on Tuesday 25 July. According to our information, they are being prosecuted for embezzlement, misdirection, interference with police regulations and security of navigation and smuggling.
The two accused allegedly illegally, according to the investigation, drove the two vessels of their boss from Guinea-Bissau to Senegalese waters. They would have hidden them at the Port of Dakar before unloading and trying, in vain, to put on the market their loads of fish.
March 2021. To strengthen the fleet of his company, Hossam Koumayha takes the two boats rented from the two Egyptians he has brought to justice. Each vessel cost $12,000 (approximately 7.1 million CFA francs) for one year of operation. The rental contract established, it changes the Egyptian registration of the boats in Guinea-Bissau.
According to their agreement, Salem Tahan and Ali Kanoun remain in control of the ships. The activities start in January 2022, when the rental contract took effect. The two masters made tides of up to eight days, after which they returned to the dock and made the fishery available to the plant.
The collaboration lasts a year without a hitch. But on April 8, around 10 am, Hossam Koumayha noted an anomaly in the control system of his ships: «Hassan & Fakry» and «Aleman» tangled away from Bissau-Guinean waters. And will reach the Senegalese maritime borders at 2pm.
The shipowner tried unsuccessfully to reach his collaborators. The communication and location system of the two boats was cut. As well as the VMS, which allow to control the ships at the level of the ECOWAS zone.
Koumayha managed to reach the inspector of one of the boats. But the latter tells him that these were diverted and were located a few nautical miles from the Port of Dakar. The businessman informs the competent authorities of Guinea-Bissau before jumping on a plane to Dakar.
He was not at the end of his troubles by setting foot in the Senegalese capital. Before going to the Port of Dakar and discovering that his ships are hidden at pier 105, he runs into the refusal of the Senegalese Ministry of Fisheries when he requests the blocking of the cargo of fish.
The guardianship informs him that given the perishable nature of the load, he authorized its landing and storage in a specialized factory of the place, pending the outcome of the procedure.
The plant in question is called Diop & Frères. It belongs to a certain Aliou Thiam, CEO of the Baye Niass Establishment, specialized in fishing, armament, consignment, handling and processing of fishery products. Consignee of the two ships, Thiam bought «Diop & Frères» from Mamadou Diop. At the time of the dispute over the Bissau-Guinean flag, the two men were in the process of finalizing the sale, but the buyer had already taken control of the company.
The CEO of the Baye Niass Establishment states that he was hired in February 2022 as consignee of the two boats by a certain Nicolas Nectoux. He claims that the latter, a French national, presented himself to him as the legal representative of the two ships in Senegal. He had, he said, given him the role of taking care of all the administrative formalities for each entry of the boats to the Port of Dakar.
This is how, he reports, Nicolas Nectoux announced to him, on April 8, the arrival in Dakar of «Hassan & Fekry» and «Aleman». He alerts the Harbour Master’s office to obtain entry permits, contacts the police for clearance formalities and informs the customs for dockside inspection visits.
Everything is obviously well on the wheels. But when the ships arrive, the information falls: the maritime authorities inform him that the ships are the subject of a dispute and that, consequently, the formalities in progress are suspended. Aliou Thiam cables the Ministry of Fisheries and obtains the authorization to unload the cargo of fish. He keeps it in his freezer units pending the outcome of the dispute.
uid of the amount of fish landed? He informs that his agents had communicated to him 15 tons, but after the inventory which he supervised himself, he held 22,505 tons for both boats. In addition, he recorded 1610 cassettes that he kept in his warehouses.
Aliou Thiam ensures that the unloading and storage operations were conducted by his shipping agent, Amadou Guèye, in the presence of Nicolas Nectoux and under the supervision of an officer of the Directorate of Fisheries Protection and Surveillance (DPSP) and a representative of the Ministry of Fisheries.
While Amadou Guèye, Mamadou Diop and Mamour Thiam Ndiaye, an employee at Diop & Frères, who were heard as part of the investigation, confirmed Aliou Thiam’s statements, Nicolas Nectoux partially contested them.
The latter states from the outset that, contrary to Thiam’s assertion, he never presented himself as the representative of the two ships. Rather, he corrects the investigators, he is the representative of the two Egyptian captains. And to convince his interlocutors, he filed the proxy established in this sense by the accused on their arrival in Dakar.
Nicolas Nectoux said he was informed of the arrival of the two ships the day before, on April 7. He says he was alerted by phone by Ali Kanoun. The latter reportedly informed him that he and Hassan Tahan were going to flee from Guinea-Bissau on board their ships to take refuge in Dakar. Deploring that their boss owed them several months of salary and would not stop threatening them with death every time they expressed the wish to terminate the contract that binds them. It was then a question for Nectoux to help the fugitives to enter the Port of Dakar. Which he did.
The latter admitted to having then witnessed the unloading of the cargo of the two ships as well as their convoying by trucks at the Diop & Frères factory. He hastened to add that he does not know the composition of the load and its quantity, even if the two captains would have told him that he had each unloaded about 10 tons.
Blocked sale, contradictions
Did the French and the two Egyptians sell part of the fish stock landed by the two vessels? Nicolas Nectoux swears that no, confirmed ar the two questioned.
Certainly, Hassan Tahan and Ali Kanoun have revealed that they have mandated Nectoux to sell the product. And in this perspective, the Frenchman gave them as an advance on the total of the probable subsequent sale, 3.2 million and 3.5 million CFA francs, respectively. But when the product was blocked by the Ministry of Fisheries and stored in the warehouses of Diop & Frères, the sale had become impossible.
Noting the contradictions in each other’s statements, the DIC organized a confrontation between Hossam Koumayha, Aliou Thiam and Nicolas Nectoux. This initiative did not allow the investigators to go any further. Each one, according to them, decided on its position. In particular, with regard to the period of validity of the contract binding the complainant on both parties.
It took effect on July 4, 2021 and expired on July 4, 2022. But, says Hassan Tahan, given the delay in the delivery of the two ships, a verbal agreement was reached with the complainant for an extension until January 2023.
Was this contract renewable «by tacit renewal» as claimed by Hossam Koumayha? No, swears the two involved. After July 4, 2022, did they take legal action against their former boss? Unimaginable in Guinea-Bissau, according to Tahan and Kanoun. Who claim that such a procedure would lead to nothing since Koumayha would be super protected in this country.
Clearly, the only solution available to them, to escape the clutches of their boss, according to their version, was to run away. And Senegal seemed, in their eyes, the ideal refuge.
These statements did not convince the investigators. The two Egyptians were thus referred to the prosecutor’s office for embezzlement of ship, wrong course, obstruction of police regulations and security of navigation and smuggling.
The complainant deplores huge losses. He assures that the eight days of tides of his ships brought him 51 tons, 28 tons for «Hassan & Fekry» and 23 tons for «Aleman», for a total of 30 million CFA francs, in addition to 2100 cassettes worth more than 51 million CFA francs.
And that’s not all. Koumayha states that his company must pay penalties of 110 million CFA francs, for «Hassan and Fekry», and 55 million CFA francs for «Alema». The fault? The fact that the beacons of the two ships were cut by its employees and that they crossed the maritime borders of Guinea-Bissau without the authorization of the competent authorities of that country.
In addition, the shipowner accused the two Egyptians of diverting 13,000 litres of diesel oil stored in the two vessels. With a total value of 8 million 385 thousand CFA francs, this fuel was to be used for other tides. Added to this is the two-month suspension of operation of the two vessels, the damage of which, according to the complainant, would be 120 million CFA francs.
If you heat the calculator, it appears that Hossam Koumayha would have lost 374 million 385 thousand CFA francs. And the bill may be more expensive because the ships will not resume their activities until the dispute is cleared.