Maputo — The definitive charge sheet from the Public Prosecutor's Office against 20 people accused of involvement in Mozambique's largest ever financial scandal gives exhaustive details of bribes paid by the Lebanon-based company Privinvest.
The fraudulent scheme involved setting up three security-linked companies, Ematum (Mozambique Tuna Company), Proindicus and MAM (Mozambique Asset Management). The companies eventually borrowed over two billion US dollars from the banks Credit Suisse and VTB of Russia.
Loans on this scale to recently formed companies with no track record, and run by the Mozambican security and intelligence service (SISE), were only possible because government officials, notably Finance Minister Manuel Chang, signed loan guarantees - pledging that, if the companies did not repay, the Mozambican state would be liable.
Privinvest became the sole contractor for the three companies, providing them with boats and other assets at vastly inflated prices.
But, initially, it was not clear that the Privinvest scheme would win Mozambican political approval. So, according to the prosecutors, one of the Mozambicans working on the project, Teofilo Nhangumele, contacted his old friend Bruno Langa, a SISE officer, to ask how to unblock matters.
Langa turned to his friend and business partner, Ndambi Guebuza, the oldest son of the then President, Armando Guebuza. He agreed, provided he received adequate "thanks". He took the project to his father, who did indeed give the green light. Then the bribes began to flow.
The largest bribe paid by Privinvest was for 33 million US dollars, paid to Ndambi Guebuza, the prosecution says. The money was paid either into an account he had opened in the Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, in the United Arab Emirates, or via various South African companies.
The first major payment from Privinvest was for 14 million dollars, deposited on 26 March 2013, in Guebuza Junior's Abu Dhabi account.
In order not to alert the Mozambican financial authorities to what was going on, Ndambi Guebuza opted to use South African companies as middlemen. Hence on 18 June 2013, Privinvest transferred 2.55 million rands (about 1.68 million US dollars, at current exchange rates) to the account of the law firm Jouberts Attorneys in South Africa's First National Bank (FNB).
The FNB was taken aback at the size of this transfer and asked for an explanation of the relationship between Ndambi Guebuza and Privnvest. Apparently they were satisfied with Guebuza's explanation, since the money became available on 20 June 2013, just two days after the transfer.
The money was then used to acquire real estate, automobiles and for other expenditure. Thus Guebuza Jr acquired one property in South Africa for 11.6 million rands, and 2.9 million rands were transferred to the company Imperial Collection, which trades in luxury cars.
On 17 June 2013, Privinvest transferred a further 700,000 dollars to Jouberts Attorneys, at Guebuza's request. That money was used to buy a Ferrari luxury sports car.
Privinvest then, on 23 April 2014, transferred 10.5 million rands to the South African company Pam Golding Properties. Ndambi Guebuza used this money to buy at least 15 vehicles in South Africa, some for himself and some to offer to friends. They included two more Ferraris, two Rolls Royces, three Land Rovers and an Aston Martin.
On 23 December 2014, Jouberts Attorneys received about 19 million rands from Privinvest, which Ndambi Guebuza then transferred to a variety of individuals and companies in South Africa. On 22 July 2015, the same law firm received 8.8 million rands from Privinvest.
The Mozambican prosecutors, sifting through Guebuza Jr's financial records, have drawn up a long list of people and companies who received some of this money. Among the most interesting is a transfer Guebuza Jr ordered of seven million rands from Pam Golding Properties to Apple Creek Real Estate Trust. The latter company received instructions from Ndambi to transfer three million rands to a second law firm, Nochumsoth Teper Attorneys, to buy a property for his sister, the late Valentina Guebuza.
In order not to alert the South African financial authorities, this payment was broken into three parts, each for a million rands.
Teofilo Nhangumele and Bruno Langa each received 8.5 million dollars from Privinvest. The prosecutors found that the two men used the bribe money to buy properties, luxury cars and livestock, among other expenditure, inside Mozambique and abroad.
The prosecution is asking the court, in addition to any custodial sentence, to order the 20 defendants to pay compensation to the Mozambican state of 2.9 billion dollars.
Currently only ten of the accused are in preventive detention. One is out on bail, and the other nine were allowed to stay at home awaiting the trial. That could soon change - Wednesday's issue of the independent newssheet "Carta de Mocambique", citing unnamed sources, claims that the latest evidence gathered by the prosecutors will lead to further detentions.
The prosecutors have been tracking all the bribes paid by Privinvest, leading to the discovery of more goods purchased with the bribe money, and more bank accounts. The properties could be seized and the accounts frozen in the coming days, according to the paper's sources.
Privinvest is not a defendant in this case - but the Privinvest group and its chief executive, Iskandar Safa are being sued for fraud in a separate case in London, brought by the Mozambican government.
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