Maputo — The Budget Monitoring Forum (FMO), a Mozambican civil society body at the forefront of denouncing the scandal of the country's "hidden debts", has protested at the appointment of one of the architects of those debts, Maria Isaltina Lucas, as an adviser to Prime Minister Carlos Agostinho do Rosario.
The term "hidden debts" refers to the loans of over two billon US dollars granted in 2013 and 2014 by the banks Credit Suisse and VTB of Russia to three fraudulent, security linked companies, Proindicus, Ematum (Mozambique Tuna Company), and MAM (Mozambique Asset Management).
The loans were only possible because the previous Mozambican government, under President Armando Guebuza, guaranteed them, in violation of both the country's constitution and the budget law. The three companies are now effectively bankrupt and unable to repay the loans, and so the Mozambican state becomes liable.
At the time, Lucas was National Treasury Director and gave favourable opinions for issuing the guarantees to the three companies.
She was one of the Mozambican officials who took payments from the Abu Dhabi based company Privinvest, which was the sole contractor for Proindicus. Ematum and MAM. Lucas was well paid for this work: according to documents presented last year at the trial in New York of senior Privinvest salesperson Jean Boustani, she received three million dollars from Privinvest.
The Privinvest documents referred to the recipients of bribes and kickbacks by nicknames. The nickname for Isaltina Lucas was "tres beijos" ("three kisses").
The FMO points out that between August 2013 and July 2014, she was a member of the board of directors of Ematum, and in that capacity received payments of 95,000 US dollars - even though Ematum scarcely did any fishing at all.
President Filipe Nyusi appointed her Deputy Minister of Economy and Finance in March 2016, but sacked her three years later, in February 2019. At the time, several people were being arrested for their involvement in the hidden debts scandal. Among those detained were the oldest son of President Guebuza, Ndambi Guebuza, the former head of the security and intelligence service (SISE), Gregorio Leao, and the SISE officer who became chairperson of Proindicus, Ematum and MAM, Antonio do Rosario.
Lucas was not detained, but she was on a list of 16 public managers which the Attorney-General's Office (PGR) sent to the Administrative Tribunal, asking that they be held financially responsible for the scandal.
The FMO was outraged by her appointment as an adviser to the Prime Minister. It said the appointment showed that the current government "is involved in Mozambique's greatest financial scandal, and has no interest in seeing the matter cleared up".