Maputo — For the first time, the name of former Mozambican President Armando Guebuza has appeared in the trial in New York of Jean Boustani, a senior sales executive of the Abu Dhabi-based group Privinvest, who is facing charges arising out of the scandal of Mozambique's "hidden debts".
US prosecutors regard Boustani as a key player in the fraudulent scheme whereby three security-related Mozambican companies, Proindicus, Ematum (Mozambique Tuna Company) and MAM (Mozambique Asset Management) took loans of over two billion US dollars from the banks Credit Suisse and VTB of Russia on the basis of illicit loan guarantees issued by the Guebuza government.
The prosecutors have produced emails to and from Boustani, and a wealth of bank documentation showing how at least 200 million dollars of the loan funds were used to pay bribes and kickbacks. Boustani is facing charges of conspiracy to commit money laundering, wire fraud and securities fraud. He denies the charges.
On Tuesday, prosecutor Margaret Moeser showed the court three messages from Boustani to two Mozambican phone numbers identified as belonging to "AG". She asked FBI special agent Fatima Haque, who was on the witness stand, to identify this person, and she replied "I believe AG refers to Armando Guebuza, the former President of Mozambique".
In the phone messages Boustani addresses AG as "papa", the same term of endearment used for Guebuza in email messages.
In one of the phone messages, dated 28 March 2016, Boustani wrote "Papa, I have succeeded in refinancing all the projects and issuing a very successful international Eurobond for Mozambique. So all is good".
A second message to AG, dated 20 April 2016, said that the head of the International Monetary Fund (Christine Lagarde, at the time) had met with the Mozambican Prime Minister (Carlos Agostinho do Rosario), accompanied by "Rosario and Isaltina". This second Rosario (no relation to the Prime Minister) is Antonio do Rosario, a former senior officer in the state security and intelligence service (SISE) who became chairperson of Proindicus, Ematum and MAM. Isaltina is Deputy Finance Minister Isaltina Lucas. According to documents shown to the court both Rosario and Lucas received kickbacks from Privinvest.
The third message from Boustani to "Papa" simply informed him of a potential agreement with the IMF - which never happened.
To put these messages in context, March 2016 was when Boustani was working on restructuring the Ematum loan. This loan, for 850 million dollars, took the form of a bond issued on the European market. By early 2016 it was clear that Ematum was making almost no money and was in no condition to pay the scheduled interest on the bonds.
So the Mozambican government was persuaded that it should swap the Ematum bonds for sovereign government bonds - the operation that Boustani described as "a very successful international Eurobond". This swap was not the government's own idea, but was pushed by Boustani, and by Andrew Pearse, a former Credit Suisse banker, who has confessed to taking bribes from Boustani, and then went to work for Palomar, a company associated with Privinvest.
The date of the second message, 20 April 2016, corresponds to the discovery of the full extent of the loans, and to the IMF's accusation that the Mozambican government had failed to disclose the true state of its foreign debt.
The significance of the messages from Boustani to Guebuza is that the former president was still taking an active interest in the loans, long after he had left office. Guebuza handed over to his successor, Filipe Nyusi, in January 2015, and in late February he lost his other important position, that of President of the ruling Frelimo Party.
Despite this, Boustani obviously regarded him as a key player in Mozambique, and addressed him in terms that would normally be reserved for relatives or close friends.