By Kestér Kenn Klomegâh
Ultimately the judicial court has sentenced the son of Mozambique’s ex-president Ndambi Armando Guebuza to 12 years in jail, following years of extensive investigations into corruption scandal in which caused financial havoc and serious negative impact on the economy.
Judge Efigenio Baptista, addressing a packed courtroom in the grounds of a high-security jail in the capital Maputo, handed down the sentences, adding that the financial scandal “aggravated the impoverishment of thousands of Mozambicans. The country became famous for the worst reasons. As high officials of the state they should have been guardians of the state.”
“The crimes committed have brought consequences whose effects will last for generations,” said Judge Efigenio Baptista who found Ndambi Guebuza guilty of embezzlement, money laundering and criminal association, in a scandal which arose after state-owned companies in the impoverished country illicitly borrowed $2billion between 2013 and 2014.
The government masked the loans from parliament and the public. When the “hidden debt” finally surfaced in 2016, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other foreign donors cut off financial support, triggering a sovereign debt default and currency collapse.
An independent audit found $500 million of the loans had been diverted. The money remained unaccounted for.
The “Hidden Debts” scandal also led to the arrest and detention of the former Finance Minister Manuel Chang. He was arrested while transiting through Oliver Tambo International Airport (29 December 2018) on an arrest warrant sought by the United States who had charged him with fraud and corruption, and he has since been held in the neighboring South Africa.
According to reports, many US investors had lost money in what was described as a $2 billion loan scam involving two banks, the Credit Suisse and the Russian VTB bank. The secrecy and corruption surrounding the loans dealt devastating blows to Mozambique’s credibility and reputation. It was the Wall Street Journal first revealed the hidden debt in April 2016.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) now returns with a set of new funded programmes to Mozambique, six years after the lender halted its previous deals in the wake of a financial scandal involving three fraudulent security-linked companies, and two banks – Credit Suisse and VTB of Russia.
One of the world’s most impoverished countries, Mozambique is still grappling with its hefty debt burden, as well as the impact of Covid-19, which led to its first economic contraction in three decades last year.
Eleven defendants in the so-called “hidden debts” case were sentenced to prison this Wednesday. Here a preliminary summary of sentencing by Sala da Paz: Antonio Carlos do Rosario – 12 years; Gregorio Leao – 12 years ; Fabiao Mabunda – 11 years and a fine of 64 thousand meticais; Armando Ndambi Guebuza – 12 years and a fine of 162 thousand meticais; Teofilo Nhangumele – 12 years and a fine of 162 thousand meticais; Bruno Langa – 12 years and a fine of 252 thousand meticais; Cipriano Mutota – 10 years and a fine of 32,400 meticais; Maria Inês Moiane- 11 years; Sergio Namburete – 11 years and a fine of 32,400 meticais; Renato Matusse – 12 years and Angela Leao – 11 years.
The court acquitted eight defendants, for lack of evidence, Notícias reports: Sidónio Sitóe, Cremildo Manjate, Mbanda Hennings, Simione Mahumane, Naimo Qimbire, Elias Moiane, Zulficar Hamad and Kessauge Pulchand.
With an approximate population of 30 million, Mozambique is endowed with rich and extensive natural resources but remains one of the poorest and most underdeveloped countries. It is a member of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC).