11 October 2017

Mozambique: FDA Fraud - Accused Stick to Their Stories

Maputo — The former chairperson of the Mozambican government's Agricultural Development Fund (FDA), Setina Titosse, took the stand again at the Maputo City Court on Tuesday, and once more denied all the charges levelled against her.

The prosecution argues that Titosse was the mastermind behind the fraud which syphoned 170 million meticais (about 5.6 million US dollars, at the exchange rate of the time) from the FDA between 2012 and 2015.

This time the court confronted Titosse with several of the other accused, in an attempt to iron out contradictions in their testimony.

Thus Titosse was asked about the testimony of Abdul Rassur, who is married to her niece, and is one of those accused of benefitting from FDA funds for livestock projects which never existed.

He said he had been invited by Titosse to apply for the money, and he dealt with it in her house. That was where he received the funding project and where he signed the contract.

Titosse flatly denies this. She claimed that the documents from people asking for loans from the FDA were all delivered to the FDA office, and contracts were signed at the FDA finance department.

But Rassur insisted that the deal had been done at Titosse's home. He said he had never set foot in the FDA offices, and did not even know where they are.

It was the same with Binaia, Gerson and Dercio Manganhe, the sister and brothers of Titosse's personal assistant, Milda Cossa. They all said they had signed their contracts with the FDA at Titosse's house, but she denied all three.

Binaia Maganhe repeated her claim that when, on Titosse's instructions, she opened an account at the country's second largest bank, the BCI, she handed over her bank card, and PIN number to Titosse, so that she could personally manage the account.

Titosse replied that she scarcely knew Manganhe and her brothers, and she had never used their bank cards. Since the ATMs from which cash is withdrawn all have cameras, she suggested the court should demand to see the footage.

Judge Alexandre Samuel remarked that this was not feasible, since banks do not keep the images from ATMs for a long time, and so pictures from 2014 or 2015 would not be available.

Milda Cossa did not appear at the Tuesday hearing, much to the annoyance of prosecutor Joao Nhane. All the accused enjoy provisional freedom - but one condition of this freedom is that they must appear in court whenever requested.

Given the disrespect Cossa had shown, Nhane called on the judge to cancel her provisional freedom, and throw her into jail for disobedience.

Cossa's husband, Humberto Cossa, who was in court, claimed that his wife had not received any summons. Yet he was there and so were all the other accused. A court official said everyone had been notified, on 21 September, that the trial would resume on 10 October, and all were expected to appear at the hearings until the end of the trial.

The judge said he would rule on Nhane's request “in due course”.

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