Mozambique: Zucula Remains in Preventive Detention

Maputo — A Maputo judge has refused to grant bail to former transport minister, Paulo Zucula, who is facing trial on corruption charges.

According to a brief note on Friday from the Attorney-General's Office (PGR), the judge confirmed the preventive detention of Zucula, but granted bail of 20 million meticais (about 320,000 US dollars) to Emiliano Finocchi, an architect who was arrested at the same time as Zucula on Tuesday.

Zucula is under investigation on suspicion of taking bribes from the Brazilian construction company Odebrecht, in connection with the construction of the international airport in the northern city of Nacala.

Mozambican prosecutors allege that Odebrecht paid a bribe of 315,000 US dollars to Zucula, who was transport minister in the government headed by President Armando Guebuza. A bribe, of 250,000 dollars, was supposedly paid to a second member of the Guebuza government, Finance Minister Manuel Chang.

Chang is already under detention - but in South Africa, in connection with a much bigger scandal, that of the over two billion dollars of loans to three fraudulent, security-related companies that the Guebuza government guaranteed. He is currently awaiting extradition to Mozambique.

Odebrecht admitted, in 2016, that it had paid bribes, equivalent to 439 million dollars, in 11 countries, including Mozambique. In a case brought in New York, Odebecht and a Brazilian petrochemical company, Braskem, pleaded guilty to paying vast amounts in bribes to government officials all over the world. The charges were brought by the United States, Brazilian and Swiss authorities, and the two companies settled the case by agreeing to pay a combined fine of 3.5 billion US dollars.

Odebrecht admitted to paying bribes of 900,000 dollars in Mozambique - but the 2016 court case gave few details. Only last year, doubtless thanks to cooperation between Mozambican and Brazilian prosecutors, did the names of Zucula and Chang emerge.

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