20 September 2017

Mozambique: FDA Fraud - Millions Poured to Projects That Never Existed

Maputo — A trader named Laureta Filimone, one of the accused in the case of the fraud that drained the Mozambican government's Agricultural Development Fund (FDA) of 170 million meticais (about 5.6 million US dollars at the time), on Tuesday admitted that she had taken 4.7 million meticais from the Fund for a livestock project that never existed.

Filimone told the Maputo City Court that she had been enticed into the scheme by her cousin, Leopoldina Bambo, a former domestic servant of the then FDA chairperson, Setina Titosse, regarded by the prosecution as the mastermind behind the fraud.

She said Bambo had phoned her, saying that the FDA was willing to finance people with agricultural and livestock projects. Bambo then came round to her house and persuaded her to submit a project.

The following day Filimone went to the FDA to speak with another of the accused, Brasilino Salvador, who was then head of the FDA livestock department. He helped her obtain a personal tax identification number (NUIT), a ticket showing that she had paid the municipal poll tax, and a photocopy of her identity card.

These documents were submitted to the FDA, and some time later she was called into the FDA finance department to sign a contract. She had not submitted any project, and had no land on which to implement a livestock project. She did not know how much money she would receive, until Bambo phoned her and said the money had arrived in her account.

Bambo gave Filimone instructions to transfer some of the money to her own account, and to that of another of the accused, Gerson Manganhe. She was also told to write out cheques that were then handed to Bambo. After these transfers, only 239,000 meticais remained in the account.

When she asked Bambo what she should do with this sum, Bambo said it would be a "management fund" for the livestock project. When there was no sign that the fictitious project would ever become real, Filimone asked again, and Bambo said she could use it on her other activities, which included a family field, and breeding chickens.

She told judge Alexandre Samuel that she had asked Bambo why she had to transfer the money to other accounts, if it was for her own project. Bambo assured her was being used to provide animals and inputs, and she should not worry about it because "I am helping you".

But there were no animals, no inputs and no land.

Another of the accused, Daniel Nhabete, said he had received 10.2 million meticais in his account, although he had not submitted any project to the FDA. On the instructions of the co-accused Humberto Cossa, who is a cousin of Setina Titosse, Nhabete transferred 4.7 million meticais to the account of Cossa's wife, Milda, the personal assistant to Titosse.

He transferred a further five million to the accunt of Cossa himself, and issued a cheque for a million meticais to Milda Cossa. He remained with nothing for himself, he claimed.

Jose Mazibuco told a similar story. He said he had received 4.9 million meticais in his account, but on the instructions of his friend and co-accused Vicente Matine he transferred 3.6 million meticais to Gerson Manganhe, who is Milda Cossa's brother.

Mazibuco said he withdrew most of the rest in cash and delivered it personally to Matine, leaving just 10,000 meticais in the account, which he used to buy zinc sheeting.

Another of the accused, Celeste Ismael, who was a monitoring and assessment technician at the FDA livestock department, denied the accusation that she had provided fake reports in order to justify the financing of non-existent projects.

The prosecution said she had given favourable opinions to the projects of four of the co-accused, the brothers Gerson and Binaia Maganhe, Lazaro Mondlana and Atalia Machava.

Ismael said she had visited the places where the projects were to be implemented, in Chibuto and Mandlakazi districts in Gaza province, and Namaacha district in Maputo. But she had no answer when the prosecution pointed out that the four proponents of these projects had already admitted that they had no land for them, and some of them knew nothing about the districts concerned.

Nonetheless, she insisted that she had visited the project sites, and found that they met the conditions for raising livestock, and so she had written opinions in favour of the financing.

Asked who had accompanied her on these visits, she said representatives of the proponents had gone with her. But she could not recall the names of these representatives, nor could she indicate the precise locations of the sites she had supposedly visited. She told the court she could not remember if she had ever spoken with the proponents themselves.

A Ghanaian citizen, Misehel Maaman Larya, who is the former husband of Titosse, admitted that he had received from his ex-wife a Mazda vehicle, which had cost 1.6 million meticais. The prosecution claims that this car was bought with money stolen from the FDA.

Larya, however, said he did not know where the car had come from, and the gift was "a surprise" organized by Titosse. At the time (May 2014), the two had been dating for just three weeks. He kept it until February 2016, when he sold it for 26,000 dollars. By that time, he was separated from Titosse.

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