23 December 2009

Mozambique: ADM Case - Prosecution and Defence Sum Up

Maputo — Prosecuting attorney Miguel Candido on Tuesday urged the Maputo City Court to find all five defendants in a major corruption trial guilty.

He was summing up the prosecution case against former Transport Minister Antonio Munguambe, the former chairperson of the Mozambique Airports Company (ADM), Diodino Cambaza, and three others, who are accused of diverting the equivalent of two million US dollars from the coffers of ADM.

Candido said the five had acted freely and deliberately in looting the company, seeking personal enrichment at the cost of public property. "Justice can only be done and can only be effective by finding the accused guilty and obliging them to compensate the Mozambican state", he declared.

Between 2005 and 2008, said Candido, all five accused had been involved in the systematic appropriation of money and assets belonging to ADM. Some of the money was drained via an ADM subsidiary, the catering firm SMS (Mozambique Services Company), and as a result the SMS managing director, Deolinda Matos, is among the accused.

The defence lawyers, in their final speeches, all protested the innocence of their clients.

Cambaza's lawyer, Vasconcelos Porto, protested that other former members of the ADM board, notably the former financial director, Hermenegildo Mavale, had blamed Cambaza for the financial scandals, when they were all part of the same collegial body. If Cambaza's decisions had really been against their principles, they could always have voted against him at board meetings.

Mavale's successor as financial director, Antenor Pereira, is among the accused, and his lawyer, Maximo Dias, claimed that the crimes began before his appointment. When he took up the post, Pereira "found practices that were already instituted", said Dias. Furthermore, Pereira was the only beneficiary of illicit loans from ADM, who repaid the amount borrowed (25,000 dollars), said Dias - as if an illegal loan can retrospectively become licit on repayment.

Dias switched into political mode, claiming it was not individuals, but "the system" that was on trial. ADM was just "the tip of the iceberg", he claimed. He knew that other senior figures made use of the assets of the publicly owned companies they headed - but he did not name any of them.

As for Munguambe, who had borrowed money from ADM to pay South African school fees for his children, and had acquired a vehicle for his personal use from ADM, his lawyer, Abdul Gani, said that the former minister had no criminal intention, since when he saw that he might be accused of crimes, he returned the car and the money. (Gani is right - but it was only after the scandal hit the Mozambican media that Munguambe started to repay).

Gani professed to be very shocked that a highly qualified professional such as his client, who had occupied several government positions, could now "unexpectedly be here in the dock, as if he were the most vile of criminals".

He claimed that when Munguambe asked for money for school fees, he was not issuing an order as a minister, but was just making a request. He noted that other institutions supervised by Munguambe's ministry had turned down the request.

Munguambe's nephew, Antonio Bulande, who was also head of his office, was appointed to the fictitious job of legal advisor to SMS. He earned a monthly salary of 1,100 US dollars, which was later raised to 1,750 dollars, but, according to Matos, did nothing at all for the company. His lawyer, Damiao Cumbana, declared that, if SMS did not give his client any work, that was not his fault. Since the SMS board of directors "did not consist of children", they knew what they were doing when they offered him the post (this ignores the claims made in the trial that the recruitment of Bulande for a phoney job was imposed by Cambaza and Munguambe) As for loans Bulande had contracted with ADM, "he is paying them off".

The lawyer for Deolinda Matos, Filipe Sitoe, asked the court why his client has been kept in preventive detention when Munguambe and Bulande are enjoying conditional freedom.

He said that Matos had not benefited in any way from the corruption in ADM. "There were people who got cars, wages without working, houses, rehabilitation of houses, money - but Deolinda Matos did not benefit from any of this". Thus Sitoe accepted that the other accused were guilty, while his client's only offence was to obey orders from her superiors.

Matos had a clean record in her 35 years of professional experience, but she had been thrown into jail while "minister Munguambe and the head of his office, Dr Bulande, are not detained. Why?"

The presiding judge, Dimas Marroa, announced that the court will give its verdict and sentence on 26 February. Until then, Cambaza, Pereira and Matos will remain in jail. Munguambe and Bulande will await the verdict in freedom.

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