Maputo — Despite a court order issued on Monday for his release, former bank manager Vicente Ramaya, one of the businessmen convicted of the murder of investigative journalist Carlos Cardoso, is still in jail.
Ramaya was serving a prison sentence of 23 years and six months for his part in the murder. On Monday Aderito Malhope, a judge in the tenth section of the Maputo City Court, signed the papers granting Ramaya conditional release after serving half his sentence.
The decision, made at the request of Ramaya’s lawyer, Abdul Gani, astonished other jurists. For Ramaya, like the other five men convicted of the murder, has not paid a penny in compensation to the Cardoso family.
At the end of the trial, in January 2003, the court ordered the assassins to pay compensation of 14 billion old meticais (588,000 US dollars at the exchange rate of the time) to Cardoso’s two children, Ibo and Milena.
They were also ordered to pay 500 million old meticais to Cardoso’s driver, Carlos Manjate, who was seriously injured in the attack, and was unable to work for several years.
But to date nothing at all has been paid – and, in principle, convicted criminals are not entitled to early release while they still owe money to their victims.
Furthermore, Malhope’s decision took no account of the second trial in which Ramaya was one of the main accused. In 2004, Ramaya was found guilty of masterminding the 1996 fraud at the branch of the country’s then largest bank, the Commercial Bank of Mozambique (BCM), in which the equivalent of 14 million dollars was stolen.
For this, Ramaya was sentenced to a further 12 years. His appeal was rejected by the Supreme Court in 2009, and the Maputo City Court should then have run the Cardoso and BCM sentences together. This is not a matter of simple addition, since the Mozambican penal system does not allow prison sentences longer than 30 years.
But certainly the final sentence would have been longer than the 23 years and six months that he was serving for the Cardoso murder, and which Malhope, without the slightest consultation with the lawyers for the Cardoso family and for Carlos Manjate, saw fit to halve.
But Ramaya was not released on Tuesday as expected. According to a police source, cited in Wednesday’s issue of the independent newsheet “Mediafax”, this was because the police officer who should have carried out Malhope’s orders was busy with other duties – he was working on the team accompanying Interior Minister Alberto Mondlane on an official tour of Maputo city.
So on Tuesday this officer was with Mondlane on the island of KaNyaka, in Maputo Bay.
This has given opponents of the early release more time to mobilise to overturn Malhope’s decision. The Public Prosecutor’s Office was quick to lodge an appeal against Ramaya’s release. But it takes time to hear such appeals, and they do not suspend the act they are appealing against.
It is thus feared that, even if the public prosecutors act speedily, Ramaya is likely to be released some time this week.