Mozambique: Guebuza Accuses Attorney-General of Attempted 'Political Assassination'

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Maputo — Former Mozambican President Armando Guebuza, on Thursday claimed that he is the victim of an attempt at "political assassination", and pointed a finger of blame at Attorney-General Beatriz Buchili (whom he had appointed to that post).

Guebuza's outburst was a written response to a request from Buchili's office to the Council of State (an advisory body to the President of the Republic) asking authorization to interrogate Guebuza over the scandal known as the "hidden debts". As a former president, Guebuza is automatically a member of the Council of State.

The term "hidden debts" refers to the loans of over two billion US dollars which three security related companies, Proindicus, Ematum (Mozambique Tuna Company) and MAM (Mozambique Asset Management (MAM) obtained from the banks Credit Suisse and VTB of Russia, on the basis of illegal guarantees given by the Guebuza government in 2013 and 2014.

The guarantees smashed through the ceiling on loan guarantees established by the 2013 and 2014 budget laws and also violated the clause in the Mozambican constitution which states that such potential debt must be approved by the country's parliament, the Assembly of the Republic.

To make matters worse, the Proindicus and MAM loans were kept entirely secret, until the whole scandal blew up in the government's face in April 2015. By this time Guebuza was no longer in office, and nor was his finance minister, Manuel Chang, who had signed the illicit guarantees.

As the investigations by the Attorney-General's Office (PGR) into the loans and their guarantees have ground slowly on, so have key members of Guebuza's inner circle been arrested. Those currently under preventive detention include the former president's oldest son, Ndambi Guebuza, his former political adviser, Renato Matusse, his former private secretary, Ines Moiane, and Gregorio Leao, head of the intelligence service (SISE) under Guebuza.

President Filipe Nyusi called a meeting of the Council of State on Thursday to discuss the PGR's request to interrogate Guebuza. The request was granted, with Guebuza saying he was willing to provide the information requested - but he also took the opportunity to declare that he has no confidence in the PGR.

This lack of trust, Guebuza said, in a written statement, arose from the way in which the PGR has handled the investigations and the detentions since 2015 - i.e. since the year he left office. There were "more than enough reasons" for this distrust.

He was particularly angered to find out "once again through the press" that the PGR had cited him in a case related with the hidden debts that is in the London High Court. Guebuza found it odd that the PGR "preferred to cross sub-Saharan Africa, the Sahara desert, the Mediterranean, continental Europe and the English Channel to obtain clarification from a Mozambican citizen who lives here".

But the London case has very little to do with Guebuza. The illicit loans from Credit Suisse to Proindicus were arranged via the London branch of the bank. Hence the PGR has gone to the London courts in an attempt to cancel the Proindicus debt and retrieve from Credit Suisse all the money Mozambique has already lost.

In a London hearing in late August, Guebuza was mentioned as "a person of interest" in the case. He might be called upon to testify when hearings resume in 2021.

Guebuza added that the request to the Council of State from the PGR "is not the result of any interest in conforming with the law, or of discovering the truth and then making justice. It is the continuation of a campaign of attempted political assassination, using the judicial apparatus".

Guebuza claimed this supposed campaign became louder after he gave a lecture at Maputo's Eduardo Mondlane University speaking about the role of young people in preserving the ideals of the founder and first president of Frelimo, Eduardo Mondlane. From this he concluded that the PGR "is trying to shut me up".

This slashing attack by a former President against the Attorney-General is quite unprecedented. It is all the more astonishing because it was Guebuza who appointed Beatriz Buichili to her current position.

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