Maputo — Mozambique’s Attorney-General, Augusto Paulino, has launched a stinging attack on those judges, prosecutors and lawyers who “act in the service of criminals”.
Speaking at a Maputo ceremony where 18 new district attorneys were sworn into office, Paulino warned them that during the course of their work “you will meet some colleagues, fortunately not many of them, among prosecutors, judges and lawyers who are genuine servants of organised crime”.
Criminals, he continued, take careless or vulnerable judges, prosecutors and lawyers “and turn them into their puppets”.
There were judges who feared to risk their lives over cases that landed on their desks. Some judges refused to set dates for cases that were ready for trial, in the hope that the passage of time would dispose of them. Others delayed in handing cases back to the Public Prosecutor’s Office to complete the investigation – even though they have the legal prerogative to order the final phases of investigation themselves.
There were also case files “which disappear with the connivance of judges, prosecutors, lawyers, and court officials. This obliges us to reconstruct systematically particular cases, with the resulting loss of time, since inquiries must be held to ascertain the causes and circumstances of the disappearance of the original case file”. While this was going on, suspects were released from custody since the evidence to indict them had disappeared.
Magistrates were manipulated by criminals, Paulino accused, “in order to delay decisions or so that cases remain for months on end in the offices of judges or prosecutors without any dispatch”.
Through such manoeuvres, he added, organised criminal syndicates gained time to move funds, to flee the country, and to dispose of evidence.
Paulino made a thinly veiled reference to last month’s release on parole of Vicente Ramaya, one of the men convicted of the murder, in 2000, of the country’s foremost investigative journalist, Carlos Cardoso.
Ramaya was serving a prison sentence of 23 years and six months for his part in the murder, but a judge in the tenth section of the Maputo City Court, Aderito Malhope, signed the papers granting Ramaya conditional release after serving half his sentence.
The justification for this early release is Ramaya’s supposedly good behaviour in prison. The court contacted the prison authorities for confirmation of this.
Paulino found it incomprehensible that certificates of good behaviour could be issued “in favour of prisoners suspected of commanding criminal networks by mobile phone from their prison cells”.
In defiance of all prison norms, Cardoso’s killers have repeatedly gained access to mobile phones, through which they can issue instructions to accomplices, and intimidate opponents.
There were reports that Ramaya had continued to run a real estate business from his prison cell, and that this business was involved in swindling the National Social Security Institute (INSS) out of a million dollars over the purchase of a house in the plush Maputo suburb of Sommerschield.
Paulino warned that organised crime is a serious threat to the Mozambican state. “With organised crime there can be no half-measures”, he said.
“Either organised crime does away with the social model of state that we are building, or the state does away with organised crime”.
He told the new attorneys “we want you to make a difference in the fight against this swamp of organised crime”.
As for “infiltrated agents of crime” in the prosecution services, Paulino warned “we shall be implacable, intolerant and absolutely resolute, cost what it may”. Those who did not accept his warnings would find themselves facing court cases, since, when it came to rooting our corrupt prosecutors, “we shall not leave a single clue uninvestigated”.
He urged his audience “to continue the titanic battle we are waging against crime. You must pay attention, not only to your own conduct as attorneys, but also to that of others, of judges, of lawyers and of the police”.