Maputo — The Maputo City Court on Wednesday sentenced Setina Titosse, former chairperson of the government's Agricultural Development Fund (FDA), to 18 years imprisonment for her part in the theft of 170 million meticais (worth about 5.6 million US dollars at the exchange rate of the time) from FDA funds.
Of the 23 others in the dock alongside Titosse, the court sentenced 21 to prison terms varying between 18 months and 12 years. Only two of the accused were acquitted.
In addition each of those found guilty must pay two years of fines at the rate of five per cent of the statutory minimum wage per day. That works out at a total fine for each of 146,000 meticais. In a few cases, the fine is reduced to one year, six months or three months. The accused must also repay the 170 million meticais stolen from the state.
The court suspended the prison terms for those regarded as bearing a lesser degree of guilt, and, in several cases, allowed them to avoid going to prison altogether, if they paid compensation to the state at once.
Thus Brasilino Salvador, sentenced to two yearS imprisonment, will not go to jail, if he pays 3.9 million meticais to the state. Joaquim Mazive received a four year prison term, but this has been suspended for five years, if he performs community service, and pays the state three million meticais.
The charges against Titosse included corruption, embezzlement, money laundering, abuse of her office and membership of a criminal association.
Charges against some of the other accused included fraud, forgery, payment of undue remunerations, and covering up corrupt acts. In all, 355 crimes were listed on the charge sheets.
At the heart of the prosecution case were 80 suspect bank transfers, and 30 of these concerned the fraudulent removal of money from the FDA's account. The accused used 40 bank accounts in their fraudulent scheme, which lasted for about two years (2012-2014).
The prosecution was based on a lengthy investigation by the Central Office for the Fight against Corruption (GCCC). The GCCC documents date the start of the fraud to July 2012 when Titosse authorized lines of credit for small and medium livestock companies. The scheme was proposed by co-defendant Brasilino Salvador, head of the FDA livestock department at the time.
Titosse, the prosecution said, used this scheme as a way of appropriating FDA funds. She invited relatives and acquaintances to submit projects that would use these lines of credit. But the projects proposed were all fake, and none of the money was ever used for any genuine agricultural projects.
The fraudulent projects accounted for about 107 million meticais of the stolen money. Much of the rest went on illegal payments to FDA staff. Titosse ordered bonuses, equivalent to an extra month's wages, to be paid to FDA employees on public holidays, such as Independence Day (25 June), Victory Day (7 September) and Peace and Reconciliation Day (4 October). Thus in September, a month which has two public holidays, each FDA employee would receive a pay packet containing three times his or her normal wage.
Prompt action by the authorities in freezing the bank accounts of the accused, has allowed much of the stolen money to be recovered. According to the judge, Alexandre Samuel, seizure of the money in the accounts, plus the sale of cattle owned by Titosse, has raised 130 million meticais. All other property acquired with the money stolen from the FDA is now forfeit to the state.
The lawyers for the accused have promised that they will appeal. This has the effect of suspending the prison sentences, and so all the accused remain at liberty while the appeal procedure runs its course.