17 October 2017

Mozambique: Port Leases Should Be Annulled, Says PGR

Photo: Jerry Chifamba/allAfrica
Fishing boat (file photo).

Maputo — Mozambique's Attorney-General's Office (PGR) has demanded the annulment of the leases on the ports of Beira and Quelimane, on grounds of a conflict of interests involving Transport Minister Carlos Mesquita, reports Tuesday's issue of the Maputo daily “Noticias”.

Beira port is run by the company Cornelder-Mocambique and Quelimane port by Cornelder-Quelimane. When Mesquita signed memorandums of understanding in July 1016 leasing the ports to these companies, they were both headed by his brother, Adelino Mesquita.

Cornelder-Mocambique is a company formed by the Dutch company Cornelder B.V., and the publicly owned Mozambican port and rail company, CFM. It was first given the lease on Beira port in 1998, and Carlos Mesquita became its chairperson and managing director. When President Filipe Nyusi appointed Mesquita to the government in January 2015, the management of Cornelder-Mocambique passed into the hands of his brother, Adelino.

Cornelder-Quelimane was set up in 2004 to run the port of Quelimane. It too was headed by Carlos Mesquita, and the management position also went to his brother when he became a minister.

When the new leases for the two ports were signed last year, the Central Office for the Fight Against Corruption (GCCC) requested intervention by the Central Public Ethics Commission (CCEP), a body set up under the Law on Public Probity to investigate cases of conflict of interests.

The GCCC asked whether, in signing leases with companies run by his brother, Mesquita was not in a conflict of interests. The CCEP decided that he was, and sent its decision to the GCCC this year.

The GCCC declined to initiate criminal proceedings against Mesquita, on the grounds that the components of the crime of corruption were not present. According to the PGR source cited by “Noticias”, there was no sign that the leases gave any undue advantage to the Minister himself or to any third party.

But there was indeed a conflict of interest, and the PGR argues that, in order to respect the Law on Public Probity, Mesquita should not have signed the leases.

Whether it makes sense to annul the two leases now is debatable. For Adelino Mesquita died in a plane crash in March, and so the two companies are no longer run by a member of the Mesquita family.

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