Mozambique: UAE Cooperating Over 'Hidden Debts'

Maputo — The authorities of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are now cooperating with the Mozambican Attorney-General's Office (PGR) in the investigation into the scandal of Mozambique's "hidden debts", according to a report in Wednesday's issue of the independent newssheet "Carta de Mocambique".

What the newssheet describes as "an impeccable source" revealed that the UAE is providing "essential information" concerning bank transfers made by companies of the Privinvest group, which is headquartered in Abu Dhabi, to various beneficiaries inside and outside Mozambique.

The scandal concerns loans of over two billion dollars obtained by three fraudulent, security-related companies, Proindicus, Ematum (Mozambique Tuna Company) and MAM (Mozambique Asset Management), from the banks Credit Suisse and VTB of Russia, on the basis of illicit loan guarantees issued in 2013 and 2014 by the Mozambican government of the day, led by the then President, Armando Guebuza.

The loan money never went to Mozambique, but was sent to Privinvest, as the sole contractor for Proindicus, Ematum and MAM. The independent audit of the three companies in 2017 showed that Privinvest had overcharged for fishing boats and other assets by over 700 million dollars.

The UAE was initially reluctant to cooperate with the Mozambican authorities, but changed its attitude in light of the trial in New York of Privinvest sales executive. Jean Boustani. The American prosecutors provided a wealth of evidence that Boustani was a central figure in the payment of bribes and kickbacks from Privinvest to Mozambican officials and to Credit Suisse bankers.

Privinvest had also been willing to break UAE law. Thus bank accounts were illegally opened in Abu Dhabi into which Privinvest paid kickbacks. One of the Credit Suisse bankers who received bribes, Surjan Singh, told the New York court that an account was opened in his name, and Boustani provided him with a fake Abu Dhabi address and a fake Privinvest job - although he had never lived at that address or worked in Abu Dhabi.

A second Credit Suisse banker, Andrew Pearse, said that he too had an account in an Abu Dhabi bank, into which Privinvest made regular deposits of a million dollars.

Another factor that may have influenced the UAE's decision to cooperate is that a conference of the parties to the United Nations Convention against Corruption was held in the UAE in December 2019, and one of those who attended was Mozambican Attorney-General Beatriz Buchili.

"Carta de Mocambique"'s source said that the new data from the UAE helps strengthen the case against the 20 suspects who have been formally accused, and against eight others, in an "autonomous case", whose names have not yet been revealed.

Among the suspects currently in preventive detention are Guebuza's oldest son, Ndambi Guebuza, the head of the security and intelligence service (SISE) under Guebuza, Gregorio Leao, and the SISE officer who became chairperson of all three fraudulent companies, Antonio do Rosario.

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