Maputo — The Mozambican Supreme Court has rejected the applications for habeas corpus lodged by the lawyers for four of the suspects detained in connection with the scandal of Mozambique's "hidden debts", the independent television station STV reported on Friday.
The term "hidden debts" refers to the illicit guarantees issued by the former government, under President Armando Guebuza, for loans of over two billion US dollars granted by the European banks Credit Suisse and VTB of Russia to three fraudulent companies - Ematum (Mozambique Tuna Company), Proindicus and MAM (Mozambique Asset Management).
The government guarantees meant that the Mozambican state would become liable to repay that entire amount if the companies went bankrupt. The companies were never viable and are quite unable to repay the loans. The main institution involved in setting them up was the State Security and Intelligence Service (SISE).
The four suspects who applied for habeas corpus are Gregorio Leao, the head of SISE under Guebuza, Antonio do Rosario, the former director of economic intelligence at SISE, who became chairperson of all three fraudulent companies, Ndambi Guebuza, the oldest son of the former President, who also claims he worked for SISE, and Bruno Tandane.
The lawyers for Leao, Rosario and Guebuza all argued that their clients should never have been arrested in the first place because of the limited immunity granted to SISE officials. The statutes of SISE say that SISE members cannot be detained for crimes allegedly committed in connection with their duties.
The Supreme Court, however, found that the crimes of which they are accused have nothing to do with legitimate security or intelligence work. These crimes - such as money laundering, abuse of office, corruption and membership of a criminal association - can be committed by anybody, and are not limited to the specifics of SISE activity.
In the case of Ndambi Guebuza, the Supreme Court found there was no evidence that he had ever been a SISE officer. Guebuza Junior claimed that he had been trained as a SISE agent, but the SISE top management told the Court that his name never featured on the list of the institution's staff.
As for Tandane, he sought habeas corpus on the grounds that he had collaborated with the justice authorities. The court found this argument feeble: the mere fact that a suspect had cooperated with the bodies of the administration of justice was not sufficient grounds for granting habeas corpus.
In short, the Supreme Court determined that the detentions of the four were not illegal. They will not be released, but must continue to await trial in custody.