Maputo — Mozambique's main opposition party, Renamo, has accused the government of a "gross violation" of the Mozambican Constitution through its decision to pay the debt owed to holders of the bonds that were initially issued by the fraudulent company Ematum (Mozambique Tuna Company).
Last Wednesday, the Ministry of Economy and Finance announced that it has "all the necessary conditions and authorisations" to pay off the restructured Ematum debt. It did not explain who gave these authorisations and how they could possibly override the highest court in the land, the Constitutional Council, which has declared that all acts concerning the Ematum loan are null and void.
The Finance Ministry also announced that it has already paid the bondholders 38 million US dollars. This appears to be the "consent fee and exchange payment" that was part of the proposal made by the government to the bondholders on 31 May.
That proposal should have died with the Constitutional Council ruling issued just three days later, on 3 June which declared null and void all acts concerning the Ematum loan. Also null and void "with all the legal consequences" is the loan guarantee issued by the previous government, headed by President Armando Guebuza.
The government, the Constitutional Council said in its ruling, had "completely disrespected" both the Constitution and the law by contracting the Ematum debt. The loan and guarantee were thus null and void.
There can be no appeal against Constitutional Council rulings which are irrevocable. Yet the Finance Ministry has behaved as if the Council ruling did not exist.
Speaking at a Maputo press conference on Monday, Renamo spokesperson Jose Manteigas said that, by ignoring the Council ruling, the government was committing the crime of disobedience.
Such a gross violation of the Constitution, he said, "is a denial of the democratic rule of law, and disrespect for an entire people".
Manteigas noted that the Ministrty's decision was taken at the very moment when information came to light that the ruling Frelimo Party itself had benefitted from money apparently linked to the "hidden debts" of Ematum, and of two other security-linked companies, Proindicus and MAM (Mozambique Asset Management).
This revelation is in documents made public in New York last week at the trial of Jean Boustani, a sales executive of Privinvest, the Abu Dhabi based group that became the sole contractor for Ematum, Proindicus and MAM. According to the prosecution, Privinvest channelled at least 200 million dollars of the loan money in bribes and kickbacks, including to various Mozambican government officials.
Financial evidence given by Jonathan Polonitza, an agent of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), showed that there were also four transfers to Frelimo, totalling ten million dollars, on 31 March, 29 May, 19 June and 3 July 2014. The money came from an account in the Gulf First Bank Abu Dhabi, held by Logistics International S.A.L. (offshore), which is a subsidiary of Privinvest. The money was transferred via New York, and went to an account in Mozambique's largest commercial bank, the Millennium-BIM.
Manteigas declared that "the ruling party is insisting at all costs to impose this debt nightmare on peaceful citizens who have not benefitted and will never benefit from this repulsive mafia".
He demanded that the government reverse its decision to pay the ex-Ematum bonds, "and create all the conditions for this debt to be paid by those who contracted it".