Zitamar journalist held in Cabo Delgado; 'Hidden debts' arrests threaten Frelimo modus operandi
A special catch-up briefing as Zitamar returns for 2019
Welcome to a special catch-up briefing as Zitamar returns after the New Year break.
Below, we summarise and analyse the developments from the big story breaking in Mozambique over the New Year - the arrest of former finance minister Manuel Chang and four others in connection with the $2.2 billion ProIndicus, EMATUM, and MAM ‘hidden debts’.
This morning, the greatest preoccupation for Zitamar, however, is the safety of our correspondent in Cabo Delgado. Amade Abubacar is currently being held in a military prison in Mueda after being arrested near his home in Macomia apparently for taking photos of villagers fleeing insurgent attacks.
According to Pinnacle News, Abubacar managed to contact a family member via a borrowed phone, saying he is accused of being linked to a Facebook account promoting and recruiting for the Islamist insurgency in Cabo Delgado. He told his family member he was “repeatedly and brutally kicked” by police before being driven 300km on the floor of a truck to Mueda yesterday.
Zitamar and other organisations are trying to contact the authorities in Cabo Delgado to have Abubacar released - but are struggling to get hold of those holding him.
Tomorrow: Manuel Chang extradition hearing in Pretoria, South Africa
Next week: Renamo Congress in Gorongosa, Tuesday-Thursday
The latest from Zitamar News:
EMATUM millions borrowed for kickbacks, bribes, and ProIndicus ‘cushion’, US says
The notorious EMATUM notes - since converted into a sovereign bond - were part of a 'fraudulent scheme' according to a US indictment
The best of the rest
Does the arrest of former finance minister Manuel Chang herald a new dawn for Mozambique? He will apply for bail tomorrow in Pretoria while he fights attempts to extradite him to the US - but at least one of his alleged co-conspirators in the $2.2 billion ‘hidden debts’ scandal is already in the hands of the US authorities and is certain to face trial.
The news broke shortly before new year, when Chang, who is a sitting member of Mozambique’s parliament, was picked up by South African police apparently on his way to Dubai. With Chang in chains, police in the US arrested Jean Boustani, an executive at the Privinvest Group that sold Mozambique the boats; and UK police swooped on three former Credit Suisse bankers in London, who, like Chang, now face extradition hearings. Among them is Andrew Pearse, whose involvement was first revealed by Zitamar News in 2016 - and who, with Privinvest, has since made repeated attempts to intimidate Zitamar and other media to stop them writing about the case.
The full indictment adds more gruesome details to the ProIndicus, EMATUM and MAM scheme to what we already knew through reporting by media outlets, including Zitamar, the Kroll report, and an inquiry by Mozambique’s own parliamentary commission.
A good summary of the indictment was published over the weekend by Joseph Hanlon, which we have put online here.One important new claim is the direct allegation that bribes were offered to the sitting President, Armando Guebuza - and a suggestion that they were also offered to the defence ministry, headed at the time by Filipe Nyusi.
Chang received $12 million in bribes, the indictment alleges; an unnamed co-conspirator, who was “a senior official in Mozambique’s Ministry of Finance and a Director of EMATUM” - a description which fits the current deputy finance minister, Maria Isaltina Lucas - got $4.8 million. This official, along with other unnamed ‘co-conspirators’ may have cooperated with the investigation in return for avoiding charges. Isaltina was previously deployed by the government in 2016 to explain the ‘hidden debts’ to the IMF.
There are two or three more indictees yet to be arrested, whose names are redacted in the indictment. One of them co-signed the ProIndicus financing package on behalf of ProIndicus, which would mean it is either Antonio Carlos do Rosário, the secret services official who chairs all three companies, or Eugenio Matlaba, who was the original chairman of ProIndicus.
Chang will seek bail tomorrow, his lawyer has said, while the extradition hearing could drag on for up to 60 days - though the court in New York has scheduled its first hearing for 22 January. Carta de Moçambique reports that Chang received a delegation from the Mozambican government in his Pretoria prison, to provide him “support” - but equally they could be trying to ensure he doesn’t incriminate Mozambicans who Frelimo wants to protect.
What do the developments mean for Mozambique?
There are two principal ways these developments could change the course of the country. Restructures for all three financing packages are still being negotiated, and while it remains most likely that the government’s determination to honour the debts will not change, the arrests and information in the indictment add more weight to the argument that they should be rejected.
More fundamentally, it might also mean Frelimo has to stop using the country as its personal piggy bank. Scratch the surface of any major deal in Mozambique over the past couple of decades, and the chances are you’ll find a kickback to the ruling party. Much of Chang’s $12 million was probably channeled back into the party coffers. These deals were not done by a few bad apples in Mozambique’s political elites - it is Frelimo’s modus operandi. But this time it hooked in international investors who are now able to bring the weight of US law enforcement to bear.
Moreover, as US companies, whose activities are subject to strict anti-corruption legislation, make multi-billion dollar investments in the LNG projects, the US has an interest in cleaning up the way Mozambique’s ruling party does business. This could hardly come at a worse time for Frelimo as it heads into crucial and tricky elections this year.
For a front row seat on what is going to be a crucial year in Mozambique, subscribe to Zitamar News - either by clicking below, or contact firstname.lastname@example.org for corporate packages and billing in MZN.
Have a great year.