9 December 2009

Mozambique: 403 Cases of Corruption Investigated This Year

Maputo — Mozambique's Central Office for the Fight against Corruption (GCCC) and the 11 provincial attorney's offices have investigated 403 alleged cases of corruption this year, according to the GCCC director, Ana Maria Gemo.

Speaking at a ceremony in Maputo on Wednesday, to mark International Anti-Corruption Day, Gemo said that 19 of these cases had come to trial, charges had been laid in a further 104 cases, 34 had been shelved, and investigations were continuing into the others.

If cases of theft of state funds and property are included, the total rises to 534 cases under investigation, of which 27 came to trial, 40 were shelved, while charges have been laid in 155 cases.

Gemo said that this year 81 people were arrested on charges of corruption, and 30 on charges of the theft of state funds. 45 of these people were caught red-handed.

The Mozambican legal definition of corruption is rather narrow, and does not include theft of state property. But since it is generally recognised that the two offences are closely linked, the GCCC investigates both.

Looking back over the past three years, Gemo said that proceedings were begun in 1,524 cases. 325 cases led to charges, and to date 86 trials have been held. Over the three year period 140 people were arrested for corruption, and 85 for theft of state funds or property.

These figures sharply contradict the frequent claim that nobody is ever arrested on corruption charges in Mozambique. The GCCC, like the rest of the Mozambican legal apparatus has a poor sense of public relations and no press attaches. Corruption cases thus do not become public knowledge unless they involve prominent figures, such as the current trial before the Maputo city court involving the former director of the Mozambique Airports Company (ASDM), Diodino Cambaza, and former Transport Minister Antonio Munguambe.

The figures show a significant rise in anti-corruption work since the shake-up in mid-2007, when President Armando Guebuza appointed Augusto Paulino as Attorney-General in place of the ineffective Joaquim Madeira.

Paulino, as a Maputo city judge, had dealt organised crime a severe blow when, in 2003, he sentenced members of the Abdul Satar crime family to 24 years imprisonment for their part in the murder of investigative journalist Carlos Cardoso.

Paulino brought in Gemo to head the Anti-Corruption Office, Her predecessor, Isabel Rupia, despite her high media profile, had failed to bring a single corruption case to trial.

So while charges were only laid in 19 corruption cases in 2007, the number rose to 151 in 2008 and 155 so far this year.

Gemo drew a distinction between "political corruption" and "bureaucratic" or petty corruption. The former, she said, "happens at high levels of public authority when politicians and decision-makers extract bribes or divert large sums of public money for their own benefit".

But it was petty corruption that ordinary citizens were likely to encounter when low level civil servants, policemen, teachers or health staff demand bribes.

Gemo said that the cases where people are caught in the act of extorting money are usually cases of petty corruption, particularly involving the traffic police. Motorists suffering the attentions of dishonest cops have sometimes been smart or quick enough to call the anti-corruption office on the special phone lines set up for this purpose, so that prosecutors can arrive on the scene to witness the exchange of money.

Other arrests result from audits held by the General Inspectorate of Finance, and sometimes from citizens, or the media, blowing the whistle on corrupt acts. (It was whistle blowers inside the airport company who brought about the downfall of Cambaza).

Gemo called for a change in attitude in Mozambican society, and particularly among state employees. "Each one of us must be an active agent in the fight against corruption", she urged.

Those whose job it was to serve the public "should guide their conduct by principles, values and rules based on justice, integrity, transparency and professional ethics, so as to establish and guarantee the necessary relation of trust between the citizen and the public services".

Gemo called on all companies "to follow ethical practices in business and transparency in their accounts, with serious standards of auditing".

For their part, the country's banks "should cooperate with investigations into corruption, the theft of state funds, illicit economic activities and money laundering", while community and religious leaders "should accept the role of transmitting and encouraging ethic values throughout society".

"We are all called upon to participate in the strengthening of integrity", she said, "to act in accordance with the rules, and to distance ourselves from this threat, not only on International Anti-Corruption Day, but on all 365 days in the year".

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