16 June 2018

Angola: Prosecuting the Messenger, Absolving the Corrupt

opinion

Angola’s public prosecutor, Pedro Pederneira, calls for my conviction for the crimes of insulting a public authority and speaking against the state security (June 15).

He wants me in jail for writing that former President José Eduardo dos Santos protected the corrupt. This is the crime against the state security.

The public prosecution office recently charged Dos Santos’ son, José Filomeno dos Santos, and his accomplices for the looting of US $500 million from Angola’s central bank. The looting had been authorized by the father weeks before he stepped down in September last year. Last January, I was the very first to expose the whole scam at home. So, where is the crime against the state security?

I supplied the court with plenty of evidence on past cases in which Mr. Dos Santos engaged and protected the corrupt, and the then-attorney general never replied to many of my formal complaints about the banditry of those in power.

I submitted four of these cases as evidence summarize my point.

First, on August 13, 2009, I wrote to President José Eduardo dos Santos about how the attorney general was involved in several private business ventures. His public office was managing private companies. That was unconstitutional to say the least. I never received a reply.

Second, on August 8, 2014, I lodged a complaint to the attorney general’s office on how Manuel Vicente, the vice president of the Republic, was at the same time a director of the Hong Kong-based China Sonangol International Holding, a majority Chinese-owned company. That was a clear violation of the constitution, and I never received a reply.

Third, I lodged a complaint to the attorney general’s office on June 16, 2016, on how President Dos Santos authorized the Minister of Finance to buy a tower from his daughter-in-law’s company. Through Presidential Order n.º 182/14, the president ordered the minister to pay U $115.4 million for a tower that was in the early stages of construction.

To his credit, on November 18, 2016, then-attorney general João Maria de Sousa replied to my complaint: “It is in fact a criminal complaint against the President of the Republic.”

He concluded that he had no authority to “initiate criminal proceedings against the President of the Republic, unless it is for crimes foreign to his official duties, and five years after the termination of his mandate. Thus, I dismiss this request.”

However, the attorney general did ignore his duties when it came to investigate the president’s daughter-in-law, Mayra Isungi dos Santos, the son José Filomeno dos Santos “Zenú” and the Minister of Finance, for their part in the corrupt arrangement.

Finally, last year, on January 30, I wrote to the Minister of Justice and the attorney general about the plea agreement the Brazilian multinational Odebrecht had reached with the United States’ Department of Justice. The company admitted that, between 2006 and 2013, it paid over US $50 million in bribes to Angolan government officials to secure contracts worth US $261 million. I asked for the case to be investigated in Angola, including Odebrecht and the said government officials. My request and the evidence provided were met with silence.

I published all these cases. I submitted them in court, among others, to clearly demonstrate how the corrupt have been protected both by the former president as the supervisor of the attorney general, and by General João Maria de Sousa.

The land of the wicked!

On the land acquired by his former boss, then- attorney general João Maria de Sousa, the prosecutor admitted how illegal it was, but exonerated him of corruption and blamed the local administration that issued the deed. It is the exposé of the land, acquired to build a residential condominium, which led to the criminal charges against me. So, it was admitted in court that there was corruption, but no corrupt.

Furthermore, I got tired and sick of hearing about the honor and dignity of the plaintiff. Not a single word was uttered by the prosecution about how the peasants were evicted from that land without compensation, for it to be given to General João Maria de Sousa, who bragged in court to have signed the deed for the three acres without paying a single cent.

In Angola, it seems, only the corrupt and the abusive public office holders have the right to honor and dignity. The common folk can be trampled at will, and the truth does not matter at all.

Judge Josina Ferreira Falcão provided the only light moment when she fended off the plaintiff lawyer’s request for no evidence to be considered on accusation of the crime against the state security. Lawyer João Pedro claimed that his client complained only about his honor and dignity and therefore any other evidence was (out of purpose) beside the point.

She stated that both sides had the right to present evidence as they saw appropriate. As she set the date to decide on the case, she finally had her break to extract a laugh at my expense. “I might have to push the date further to make sure my decision will not end up being criticized by Rafael Marques de Morais as being badly written.”

The judge’s verdict is set for July 6.

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