Mozambique: Nine More 'Hidden Debts' Suspects Detained

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Maputo — The Maputo City Court on Monday ordered the preventive detention of a further nine of the 20 suspects in the scandal of Mozambique's "hidden debts".

This term refers to the fraudulent scheme whereby three security-linked companies, Ematum (Mozambique Tuna Company), Proindicus and MAM (Mozambique Asset Management) were set up, which then 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.

Of the people detained on Monday, the most prominent is Renato Matusse, who was once an adviser to former President Armando Guebuza.

The other eight are not so well known. They are: SISE agent Cipriano Mutota, business people Zulficar Ahmad and Khessaujee Pulchand, lawyer Mbanda Henning, Simao Mahumane and Naimo Quimbine, who both give their address as the foreign exchange bureau Africambios, Marcia Namburete and Sidonio Sitoe.

They join 10 others in detention, namely: Ndambi Guebuza, the oldest son of ex-president Guebuza, Gregorio Leao, the former head of SISE, and his wife Angela Leao; the former head of SISE economic intelligence, Antonio do Rosario, who became chairperson of all three fraudulent companies, Ines Moiane, former personal secretary to Guebuza, Teofilo Nhangumele, a businessman believed to have played a key role in organising the first of the illicit loans, SISE agent Bruno Tandane, Sergio Namburete, a businesman believed to have close ties with SISE, Fabiao Mabunda who owned a building company, and Simiao Mahumane.

Of the 20 suspects, only one, Elias Moiane, the nephew of Ines Moiane, has been granted bail.

Many of the suspects are believed to have taken bribes from the Abu Dhabi based company Privinvest, which was at the heart of the fraudulent scheme, and became the sole contractor for Ematum, Proindicus and MAM. It supplied the companies with fishing boats and other assets at vastly inflated prices.

Among the charges they face are corruption, money laundering, blackmail, embezzlement, abuse of office, violation of management rules, falsification of documents, possession of banned weapons, and membership of a criminal association.

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