20 March 2019

Mozambique: Former Ambassador Sentenced to Ten Years

Maputo — The Maputo City Court on Tuesday sentenced the former Mozambican ambassador to the United States, Amelia Sumbana, to ten years imprisonment for embezzlement, money laundering and abuse of her office.

According to the independent daily paper, "O Pais", the court also ordered Sumbana to repay the 17.3 million meticais she had allegedly stolen when she was at the head of the embassy (about 280,000 US dollars at current exchange rates, but worth much more when the crimes were committed).

The court ordered the seizure of a Maputo building that Sumbana owns, and froze two of her bank accounts containing about 350,000 meticais.

The court accepted the prosecution case that Sumbana had falsified the embassy accounts to her own benefit. She gave verbal instructions that cheques to the value of about 300,000 dollars be issued, which were then deposited in her personal account in the US. She then transferred parts of this amount to her accounts in Mozambique, while another part of the money was used to pay institutional expenses.

The prosecution also accused her of swindling the Mozambican state out of 65,000 dollars for air tickets. She had used 13,000 dollars of her own money to pay for economy class tickets between the United States and Maputo, but then demanded reimbursement of 78,000 dollars, as if she had travelled business class.

She was also accused of helping herself to property from the official residence of the ambassador, valued at over a million meticais. She sold the old official house of the Washington embassy, and bought in a new one in a business deal the prosecutors regarded as shady.

She also bought a house, registered in the name of her husband, Adriano Sumbana, in the Maputo neighbourhood of Polana Canico, with money the prosecution said was stolen.

The court had no doubt that Sumbana had acted to damage the Mozambican state. She had violated basic administrative procedures by depositing state funds and personal funds in the same account. She had shown no repentance, and had even claimed that the then Foreign Minister, Oldemiro Baloi, was well aware of her financial management of the embassy.

The judge, Rui Duane, said that the Financial Inspection Report into the affairs of the embassy is rich in facts that would justify criminal proceedings, not only against Sumbana, but also against the financial attaché, Maria Sambo, and the first secretary, Jaime Chauque.

The judge said that, in agreeing to sign cheques in favour of the Ambassador, without the legally required documentation, and in authorising the deposit of money into private accounts, supposedly to pay embassy expenses, and not informing the Foreign Ministry of these irregularities, Sambo became part of the fraudulent scheme.

As for Jaime Chauque, he was accused of a scam which involved charging would-be visitors to Mozambique of more for their entry visas than the officially stipulated sum.

On leaving the court, Sumbana refused to speak to reporters. However, her lawyer, Pedro Macaringue, promised to appeal against the verdict.

Sumbana was ambassador from 2009 to 2015. She was also a senior figure in the ruling Frelimo party. She was a member of the Frelimo Central Committee and was the party's secretary for international relations for several years.

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