Mozambique: Hidden Debts - the Forgers Are Out to Get Me, Claims Rosario

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Maputo — Antonio Carlos do Rosario, the former head of economic intelligence in the Mozambique security service (SISE), on Friday insisted that much of the evidence against him in the current case arising out of the scandal of Mozambique's "hidden debts" has been forged.

The prosecution argues that Rosario received, directly or indirectly, millions of dollars in bribes from the Abu Dhabi based group, Privinvest, which was the sole contractor for the three fraudulent companies, Proindicus, Ematum (Mozambique Tuna Company) and MAM (Mozambique Asset Management). Rosario was chairman of the board of all three companies, before his arrest in early 2019.

The Maputo City Court on Friday continued an investigation, began the previous day, of Rosario's real estate dealings. He had ordered the building of hotels in the western city of Tete and in Belo Horizonte, on the outskirts of Maputo. The prosecution argues that the money for these ventures came from Privinvest.

A damning piece of evidence was a letter rogatory from Mohamed Fekih, head of the building company Walid Construcoes, who is currently living in Algeria. Fekih, who holds Algerian, Portuguese and Mozambican nationalities, was interviewed by Algerian prosecutors on behalf of the Mozambican Public Prosecutor's Office.

He testified that he had received slightly more than three million dollars from Privinvest in his Mozambican Standard Bank account. It was Rosario who told him of the bank transfer, and the money was withdrawn in small amounts as Walid's building work on Rosario's properties progressed.

The two hotels were initially registered in Rosario's name, but he insisted that the real owner was Txopela Investments - which is a company effectively controlled by Rosario who described it, a week ago, as "an operational company of SISE", intended to attract investment to Mozambique.

He said he had sold the Tete and Belo Horizonte hotels to Txopela - but had not yet received any money.

Throughout his testimony, Rosario claimed that emails and other documents that did not support his version of events must have been forged - "a carnival of forgers is under way", he claimed. Yes, he said, the email address on one of the documents the prosecution showed him was his, but he had never seen the text before

He also repeatedly claimed that he had forgotten many details of events, because "I have been detained illegally for the past two years and eight months, and I have no access to my computer".

On the Thursday evening session, Rosario claimed that MAM had been set up for security purposes and not just as a ship repair company. Just as Ematum was an espionage operation disguised as a tuna fishing fleet, so MAM was SISE disguised as a shipyard.

He claimed that, of all the three companies set up under the Maritime Protection and Monitoring Project, MAM was "the goose that lays the golden eggs". He said that, if it had advanced, MAM would have earned the Mozambican state 60 billion dollars.

In particular he said that MAM could have taken on major engineering projects, such as building the planned Floating Liquefied Natural Gas (FLNG) platform. Although Rosario refused to name the companies involved, the FLNG platform is owned by the Italian energy company, ENI, and will be used to extract and liquefy natural gas from Area Four of the Rovuma Basin, off the coast of Cabo Delgado province.

The platform is nearing completion in the shipyard of Samsung Heavy Industries at Geoje in South Korea. This is one of the three largest shipbuilders in the world. The idea that a small shipyard in Maputo could compete with Samsung Heavy Industries could charitably be called a delusion of grandeur.

Repeatedly, Rosario claimed that MAM is fully operational, but the reality is that it has produced virtually no revenue, and is being liquidated. There is no empirical basis for the claim that MAM could have generated 60 billion dollars

Asked about documents dating from 2016 that exposed the critical situation of MAM, Rosario said one of them must be a forgery because it got the MAM address wrong.

"The government has forged documents to incriminate me", he declared.

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