Mozambique: MPDC Denies Involvement in 'Hidden Debts'

Maputo — The Maputo Port Development Company (MPD) has categorically denied that its Chief Executive Officer, Osorio Lucas, haS any connection with the scandal of Mozambique's "hidden debts".

The denial arises from testimony given by Jean Boustani, a senior sales executive of the Abu Dhabi-based group Privinvest, last week during his trial in New York on conspiracy charges arising from the gigantic fraud whereby three Mozambican security-linked companies, Proindicus, Ematum (Mozambique Tuna Company) and MAM (Mozambique Asset Management), obtained loans for over two billion dollars from the banks Credit Suisse and VTB of Russia, in a scheme organised by Privinvest officials, three former Credit Suisse Bankers, and corrupt Mozambican government officials.

During the trial Boustani, when asked about a list of payments Privinvest had made to Mozambican officials, said that the then Deputy Finance Minister, Isaltina Lucas, received three million dollars - Boustani claimed some of this was for "a company associated with her brother who was the manager of Maputo port and it was to establish the Mozambique maritime authority".

This was a case of Boustani deliberately misleading the court or being woefully ill-informed about Mozambique - for there has always been a maritime authority in Mozambique and it did not need to be established in 2014.

Springing to the defence of Osorio Lucas, MPDC issued a statement on Wednesday declaring that this part of Boustani's testimony bore no relation to reality.

"Neither the MPDC nor its CEO was contacted to provide any kind of service, nor did they ever receive or were contacted to receive any sum", the company declared. Nothing of the kind, it added, would be permitted by "the system of management, governance and compliance scrupulously implemented by the Board of Directors and all the executive management team".

Furthermore, the MPDC shareholders "are constantly informed and follow the execution of all projects and all the acts involving the MPDC".

The claim that Osorio Lucas had received Privinvest money was thus false - all the more so since the Maritime Authority Lucas was supposed to be setting up has existed in its current form since 1994.

It was thus "inconceivable" that any kind of consultancy would be required to set up a body that already exists. Furthermore, it was the Council of Ministers (Cabinet) that set up the Maritime Authority.

The MPDC shareholders, the statement concludes, "have reiterated their full confidence in the CEO and in the entire executive management of the MPDC".

Boustani's insinuations will not divert MPDC from its commitment "to transform the Port of Maputo into a regional and international reference point and to contribute positively to the development of the country".

Towards the end of the Boustani trial, journalists in the New York courtroom were able to see a prosecution exhibit with a list of 21 Privinvest "consultants" in Mozambique. Accompanying the list was a note from the Privinvest Chief Financial Officer, Naji Allam, marked "Extremely Confidential" stating "I am attaching a document related to transfers made to ''consultants'' (sic) of the Mozambique project. I need you to check on the list where we did direct transfers to their names, and send me from which company/amount/date".

At the end of the message, Allam once again stressed "the information is extremely confidential"

Thus Allam seemed to have been checking whether the Privinvest bribes and kickbacks had arrived in the pockets of the right people. The message is dated 13 April 2017 (by which time the scandal had broken), and Allam was asking for information going back to 2013.

The list is headed by former President Armando Guebuza, followed by his two sons Ndambi and Mussubuloko. Other members of Guebuza's entourage are on the list - which is substantially the same as the list of suspects which the Mozambican Attorney-General's Office (PGR) had drawn up in 2016. The PGR had asked for banking secrecy to be lifted for these individuals so that their accounts could be checked for illicit payments.

The PGR found enough evidence to order the detention of Ndambi Guebuza, the former head of the intelligence service (SISE), Gregorio Leao, his wife Angela Leao, the former head of SISE economic intelligence, Antonio do Rosario, who became the chairperson of all three fraudulent companies, Teofilo Nhangumele, the fixer who played a key role in the Proindicus loan, and Guebuza's political adviser, Renato Matusse, and Cipriano Mutota, head of the studies and projects office of SISE.

It seems that so far the PGR has not uncovered enough evidence to justify detaining the others named on this the list.

Two of those on the list, Lizete Chang, the wife of then finance minister Manuel Chang, and Isidora Faztudo, a parliamentary deputy of the ruling Frelimo Party, were already dead by the time the list surfaced in the New York court.

The names of neither Isaltina nor Osorio Lucas are on this list.

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