Maputo — Mozambican Attorney-General Beatriz Buchili on Thursday denied that her office was deliberately dragging its feet in extending the deadline for the audit into the security-related companies Ematum (Mozambique Tuna Company), Proindicus and MAM (Mozambique Asset Management).
These companies obtained loans from European banks (manly Credit Suisse and VTB of Russia) amounting to over two billion US dollars, which were illicitly guaranteed by the previous government under President Armando Guebuza. There is no way the three companies can repay the money, and the illegal guarantees have added 20 per cent to Mozambique's foreign debt.
This scandal led the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to suspend its programme with Mozambique, and all 14 donors who once provided direct support to the Mozambican state budget halted further disbursements. The IMF made it clear that an independent audit of Ematum, Proindicus and MAM is a basic pre-condition for the resumption of normal relations.
The Attorney-General's Office (PGR) hired the London branch of the US company Kroll Associates to carry out the audit. Initially Kroll was given a 90 day deadline to compete the audit report, but it has been granted two extensions and the deadline is now 28 April.
Speaking at the Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, on the second day of a debate on her annual report on the state of the justice system, Buchili said the extensions were necessary because of the highly technical nature of the information required for the audit. It also required international cooperation from several countries, including Britain (since it was the London branches of Credit Suisse and VTB that handled the loans), France (because the boats for Ematum and Proindicus were built in a French shipyard), the United Arab Emirates (because the mother company of the shipyard is the UAE-based Abu Dhabi Mar), and Holland (the special purpose vehicle that sold Ematum bonds was Dutch).
Buchili stressed that there is no political interference in the work of the auditors. “Kroll is an independent body that does not receive instructions from the PGR”, she said.
The PGR had accepted Kroll's requests for extensions, because “we have every interest in seeing the audit successfully concluded”, she said. “We want a solid report that meets the terms of reference of the audit”.
Asked why her report contained no references to “mass graves” in Sofala province, Buchili said that reports of a mass grave in Gorongosa district had been investigated last year. No evidence of any such grave came to light. However, decomposing bodies were found nearby, across the provincial boundary, under a bridge in Macossa district, Manica province.
It is not known who these victims were, or how they met their deaths, but Buchili said a case file had been opened and is in the hands of the Manica provincial attorney's office.
As for the bribe of 800,000 US dollars paid by the Brazilian company Embraer to Mozambican officials in 2009, to ensure that Mozambique Airlines (LAM) purchased Embraer aircraft, Buchili assured the Assembly that this is in the hands of the Central Office for the Fight against Corruption (GCCC), and is at an advanced stage with three suspects.
She said that the GCCC case arose from an earlier investigation into accusations of LAM mismanagement in 2014, and was not simply a reflex of the Brazilian and US court cases against Embraer.
A second Brazilian concern, the construction company Odebrecht, also admitted to Brazilian prosecutors that it had paid large bribes in several countries, including Mozambique. So far it is only known that Odebrecht paid as yet unnamed Mozambican officials 900,000 dollars.
Buchili said that part of Odebrecht's deal with the Brazilian authorities was to keep the details secret for six months. That period expires at the end of May, and only then will it be possible to discover who Odebrecht paid in Mozambique and for what advantages.
Deputies from the rebel movement Renamo complained that prosecutors paid no attention to what they called “death squads” who had murdered opposition figures last year. Catarina Olinda claimed that no action had been taken in response to the assassination of senior Renamo figures in her province, Tete. Buchili replied that in fact a case file, against “persons unknown” had been opened in December.
A list of serious crimes appended to Buchili's report includes several political assassinations last year of figures from both Renamo and the ruling Frelimo Party. It also includes - a matter passed over in silence by the Renamo deputies - several of the Renamo ambushes against convoys on man roads ion Sofala and Manica provinces.
The Attorney-General said that many of the delays in prosecuting cases arise from an outdated Penal Procedural Code, essentially unchanged from colonial days. This code, she argued, was not designed to deal with modern forms of crime.
Her words were a veiled criticism of the Assembly, which failed to rewrite the Penal Procedural Code at the same time as it passed a new Penal Code in 2014. The Penal Code is in force, but judges and prosecutors face difficulties in applying it, since the procedures have not been updated.
Drafting a new Penal Procedural Code is in the hands of the Assembly's Legal and Constitutional Affairs Commission, and it s not yet clear when it will have a new code ready for submission to the Assembly plenary.
The debate around Buchili's report followed exactly the same pattern as the debates in previous years, with the majority Frelimo Party praising the report, while the two opposition parties, Renamo and the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM) condemned it.
The report was “objective and didactic”, declared Frelimo deputy Antonio Charre, while her colleague Damiao Jose said it “meets our expectations”.
But for Renamo deputy Jose Manteigas, the report merely showed that the PGR “is sitting on a wall of lamentations calling out for help”, while Jose Manuel de Sousa of the MDM called the PGR “the weakest link in the administration of justice”.
At the end of the debate, Renamo served notice that it would bring a motion to the Assembly rejecting Buchili's report. Given Frelimo's comfortable majority, such a motion is doomed to defeat.