Maputo — The trial of 19 people accused of crimes in relation with the scandal of Mozambique’s “hidden debts” has been set for 23 August, according to a report in Wednesday’s issue of the independent newssheet “Mediafax”.
Those of the accused under detention in the Lingamo prison in the southern city of Matola received and signed notifications of the trial on Monday.
“Mediafax” adds that the authorities have not yet decided on a venue for the trial. A large space is required given the number of defendants, and the huge public interest in the case. One venue under consideration is the Joaquim Chissano Conference Centre in Maputo.
Another possibility would be to hold the trial in a large air-conditioned tent erected in the grounds of the top security prison in Matola. This was the solution found for the trial, in 2002-2003, of the six people found guilty of murdering the country’s foremost investigative journalist, Carlos Cardoso.
The term “hidden debts” refers to the loans, in 2013 and 2014, of over two billion US dollars granted by the banks Credit Suisse and VTB of Russia to three fraudulent, security-linked Mozambican companies, Proindicus, Ematum (Mozambique Tuna Company) and MAM (Mozambique Asset Management).
The negotiations leading up to the loans involved at least three corrupt officials from Credit Suisse, who have admitted to taking bribes, and officials of the Abu Dhabi based group Privinvest , notably Jean Boustani. Between them, they ensured that the Mozambican government of the day, led by the then President Armando Guebuza, issued illegal loan guarantees, covering the entire two billion dollars.
The effect of the guarantees was that, if the companies defaulted (as they have done), then the Mozambican government would be held liable for repaying the loans. But the guarantees violated the budget laws of 2013 and 2014 and the Mozambican constitution. The loans and their guarantees have been declared unconstitutional by the Constitutional Council, Mozambique’s highest body in matters of constitutional law.
The man who signed the loan guarantees was the then Finance Minister, Manuel Chang. He is currently languishing in a South African prison, while the South African Justice Minister, Ronald Lamola, decides whether he should be extradited to Mozambique or to the United States.
Privinvest, which became the sole contractor for the three fraudulent companies, sat at the heart of a network of corruption. According to US prosecutors investigating the case, Privinvest used at least 200 million dollars of the loan money for bribes and kickbacks. Among those who took money from Privinvest were Chang, and the three Credit Suisse bankers Andrew Pearse, Surjan Singh and Detelina Subeva.
The Attorney-General’s Office (PGR) initially charged 20 people in connection with the case, though the Supreme Court later ordered the release of one of the accused, Marcia Namburete. The charges include corruption, blackmail, embezzlement, abuse of office, violation of management rules, falsification of documents, and membership of a criminal organisation.
Among those charged are Ndambi Guebuza, the oldest son of former President Armando Guebuza, the former head of the State Intelligence and Security Service (SISE), Gregorio Leao, the head of SISE economic intelligence, Antonio do Rosario, who became chairperson of all three fraudulent companies, President Guebuza’s former secetary, Ines Moiane, and Renato Matusse, once an advisor to Guebuza.
Most of the accused were released on bail or against a statement of identity and residence in March this year. Five remain in detention, including Leao, Rosario and Ndambi Guebuza.