Maputo — Mozambique's former Labour Minister, Helena Taipo, was released from preventive detention on Tuesday, after a successful writ of habeas corpus submitted by her lawyers in December, according to a report in the independent daily paper "O Pais".
Taipo had been arrested on corruption charges in April 2019. She was accused of heading a scheme to steal 113 million meticais (about 1.94 million dollars, at current exchange rates) from the coffers of the National Social Security Institute (INSS).
Taipo had been Labour Minister under President Armando Guebuza, from 2005 to 2015. His successor, Filipe Nyusi, appointed her governor of the central province of Sofala, and then ambassador to Angola.
Taipo was received at the prison gate by her lawyers and members of her family. She did not speak to the waiting reporters or look at the cameras, but entered a car and was driven away.
One of her lawyers, Nercio Bomba, told "O Pais" that the habeas corpus request dates from December "but only today did the Higher Appeals Court rule on it. The court accepted our arguments, and ordered her immediate release. Right now, she is free and with her family".
The court did not demand that she pay any bail. She must now wait at home until a date is fixed for her trial.
This might still take some time, since other people accused in the same case have appealed to the Supreme Court against the case going to trial, Taipo, however, did not join this appeal.
"We don't know what the decision will be, but in principle she will wait for her trial in freedom", said Bomba.
There are another 12 suspects in this corruption case, including Pedro Taimo, former coordinator of the mineworkers' project, in the Directorate of Migrant Labour in Taipo's ministry, Anastacia Zita, former director of the migrant labor unit, Jose Monjane, the former head of the Finance Department in the Ministry, and Sidonio Manuel, who once worked in Taipo's office.
The suspects are accused of a range of crimes, including embezzlement, illicit participation in business, abuse of trust and forgery. The money taken from the INSS was allegedly used to purchase property, vehicles and other goods.
According to the investigations made by the Central Office for the Fight against Corruption (GCCC), the suspects invited members of their families to pass themselves off as suppliers, issuing false invoices and receipts to justify use of the money.