Maputo — Former Mozambican Prime Minister Luisa Diogo said on Sunday she is "shocked" at the involvement of former finance minister Manuel Chang in the scandal of the country's "hidden debts".
Diogo had once worked closely with Chang. In the government led by President Joaquim Chissano between 2000 and 2004 she was Finance Minister and he was her deputy. When she was promoted to Prime Minister (2004-2009), Chang took over as Finance Minister.
Chang is currently under police custody in South Africa fighting extradition to the United States, where he is wanted on charges of conspiracy to commit money laundering, wire fraud and securities fraud, arising from the hidden debts.
Speaking to the independent television station STV, during Sunday's ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Eduardo Mondlane, the founder and first president of the Mozambique Liberation Front (Frelimo) Diogo said she once thought she had known Chang well and was surprised at the extent of his involvement in the most corrupt financial scandal that has ever shaken Mozambique.
"It's a great shock because he's a cadre whom I know and I thought I knew him well. With the work we did together I thought he shared the same principles of how to serve the state, how to serve the people. I'm shocked because although I have understood about the debts since 2015, I never thought he had taken advantage of this", declared Diogo.
She told STV that the debts, incurred through government guaranteed loans to the fraudulent company's Proindicus, EMATUM (Mozambique Tuna Company) and MAM (Mozambique Asset Management), are a "heavy burden" for the country. Diogo added that since there are signs that other people who are not Mozambicans were involved, the responsibility must be shared.
She was clearly referring to Jean Boustani, an executive at the Abu Dhabi based company Privinvest, who was a middle man in the loans and who is currently under arrest in New York. Also awaiting extradition to the United States are three former executives of one of the key banks involved, Credit Suisse.
"There must be shared responsibility. That doesn't necessarily mean sharing out the sums involved, but reassessing aspects linked to the payment, to time frames, to rescheduling. to relieving the weight of annual payments, amongst other", said Diogo. "There's a whole package which can help us comply as a nation".
"We are in no condition to pay this debt on our own, and if we try to pay it on our own we shall succumb. Our development project will succumb", she warned.
Diogo added that Mozambican institutions should learn from the hidden debts case that they must be vigilant to prevent "a minister of finance exceeding his powers in this way without any institution doing anything about it".
"We cannot depend on the goodwill of people in government", stressed Diogo. "Our institutions must be strengthened to avoid this sort of situation".