HIDDEN DEBTS: GUEBUZA’S SON SENTENCED TO 12 YEARS
Maputo, 7 Dec (AIM) – The Maputo City Court on Wednesday sentenced Ndambi Guebuza, the oldest son of former Mozambican President Armando Guebuza, to 12 years imprisonment for his role in the scandal of Mozambique’s “hidden debts”.
Judge Efigenio Baptista said it had been proved that Ndambi had influenced his father into accepting the coastal protection scheme proposed by the Abu Dhabi based company, Privinvest. This led to the formation of three fraudulent, security linked companies, Proindicus, Ematum (Mozambique Tuna Company) and MAM (Mozambique Asset Management).
Between them, these companies obtained loans of over two billion US dollars from the banks Credit Suisse and VTB of Russia – but the banks only lent the money, in 2013 and 2014, because Guebuza’s government, in the person of the then Finance Minister, Manuel Chang, signed illicit loan guarantees that smashed through the ceilings on such guarantees set by the budget law. When the three companies went predictably bankrupt, the Mozambican state became liable to repay the loans.
Ndambi’s assistance to Privinvest did not come cheap. He and his accomplices, Teofilo Nhangumele (who claimed paternity of the coastal protection project) and Bruno Langa, demanded bribes of 50 million dollars – 8.5 million dollars each for Nhangumele and Langa and 33 million for Ndambi, regarded as the crucial contact with the President.
The court also sentenced both Nhangumele and Langa to 12 years. Baptista pointed out that this was the maximum sentence he could pass for the combination of crimes the accused had committed (notably criminal conspiracy, embezzlement and money laundering).
The judge clearly believed that the sentence was too lenient, and thought that the Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic has made a serious mistake in the latest amendment to the Penal Code, in 2019. This made the penalty for embezzlement between eight and 12 years.
But in 1886, the penalty had been between 12 and 16 years, and a later amendment had increased the punishment to between 20 and 24 years. Baptista thought it urgent that the Assembly correct its error of 2019. But right now there was nothing he could do about it “since the judge only applies the law, he does not make it”.
Baptista also sentenced the former head of the Security and Intelligence Service (SISE), Gregorio Leao, and the former head of SISE Economic Intelligence, Antonio Carlos do Rosario, to 12 years. SISE had effectively run the three fraudulent companies, and Rosario had chaired all three.
Leao and Rosario, said the judge, had headed the body that was supposed to protect Mozambican security. “They should have been the first guardians of society”, he stressed, “They should have been the guardians of the public good and of the Mozambican state. Their duty was to protect the state, but they did not do so”.
The court also sentenced Guebuza’s former political adviser, Renato Matusse, to 12 years, and his private secretary, Ines Moiane, to 11 years. Both had taken bribes from Privinvest. Some of this money was channelled through Moiane’s associate, Sergio Namburete, who also received an 11 year sentence.
Bypassing the Mozambican financial system, Gregorio Leao used his wife Angela and businessman Fabiao Mabunda to receive money from Privinvest – they too received 11 year sentences.
Baptista noted that the defendants showed no sign of repentance, or of willingness to repay what they had taken – with one exception. He was Cipriano Mutota, the former head of projects at SISE, who cooperated in the investigation by the Public Prosecutor’s Office. He willingly handed over documents in his possession, and the judge believed that his repentance was genuine.
Nonetheless, he had committed the crimes of criminal conspiracy and money laundering, and Baptista sentenced him to ten years.
In addition to the prison sentences, those found guilty will have to repay the Mozambican state in full for the damages caused. The fraudulent loans to Proindicus, Ematum and MAM amounted to just over two billion dollars. Including interest, the amount rises to over 2.9 billion dollars.
Baptista ordered Teofilo Nhangumele, Bruno Langa, Angela Leao, Fabiao Mabunda, Renato Matusse, Ines Moiane and Sergio Namburete to pay the Mozambican state all the money they had taken as bribes from Privinvest.
But the main conspirators will have to pay much more. Baptista ordered Ndambi Guebuza, Gregorio Leao and Antonio Carlos do Rosario to pay 2.883 billion dollars. (That is the sum left from the corrupt loans, after the bribes to Nhangumele, Langa and Matusse have been subtracted).
Baptista acquitted nine other accused. These were minor players in the scandal, who, in the judge’s view, did not take money knowingly from Privinvest. They included, for instance, three staff members at the Africambios foreign exchange bureau, which was used to launder Privinvest money. They did not know where the money came from, and they were just following instructions from the Africambios management.
The sentences by no means bring this saga to an end. Appeals will certainly be lodged, and will take a considerable time to process.
The lawyer for Ndambi Guebuza, Isalcio Manjane, fired the opening salvo. As he left the courtroom, he told reporters the trial was “political”, and was aimed at the Guebuza family, particularly the former President.