Nineteen people, including public security officials, were charged for the “hidden debt” that disrupted the national economy.
A court in Mozambique has ruled that the son of a former president, two former spy bosses and eight others will be jailed for many years for their involvement in a corruption scheme in which the government tried to cover up huge debts that caused the financial crisis.
11 were found guilty and sentenced on Wednesday in connection with a $2bn “hidden loan” that saw hundreds of millions of dollars in government-backed loans disappear and cripple the southern African nation’s economy.
Nineteen people, including state security officials, were prosecuted for crimes such as money laundering, corruption and fraud; the remaining eight were acquitted by a court in Maputo.
Armando Ndambi Guebuza, the son of former president Armando Guebuza, was sentenced to 12 years in prison, while others who were found guilty were sentenced to 10 to 12 years.
“Armando Ndambi Guebuza has not shown remorse for committing the crime and insists that he has been persecuted for political reasons,” said Judge Efigenio Baptista of the Maputo city court.
Ndambi still doesn’t think that he has wrongly benefited from $33m that the people of Mozambique desperately need.
Two intelligence officials, General Director Gregorio Leao and the head of the finance agency, Antonio Carlos do Rosario, were also sentenced to 12 years in prison.
Leao and do Rosario were found guilty of theft and abuse of power, while Ndambi Guebuza was found guilty of embezzlement, money laundering and association with criminals, among other charges.
The judge said that those who were found guilty and their actions contributed to the poverty of the people of Mozambique.
“The defendants have tarnished the good reputation of the country abroad and in international markets, with long-lasting consequences and difficult to repair,” he said.
The dispute began when state-owned companies in the impoverished country borrowed $2 billion in 2013 and 2014 from foreign banks to buy tuna fishing and monitoring vessels. The government hid the debts of the parliament and the people.
When the “hidden debt” hit in 2016, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other donors cut financial aid, leading to debt defaults and a collapse of the economy.
An independent investigation found that $500m of loans were diverted. The amount is unknown.
Former President Guebuza, who was in office when the loans were issued, testified in the case, but did not appear in court on Wednesday.
Dressed in a black sweater over an orange prison jumpsuit, her son stood as the judge handed down the sentence.
Meanwhile, Mr. Baptista said Ndambi Guebuza acted deliberately “to give influence to his father” and asked the government to approve the purchase of the ships.
He took $33m in bribes to satisfy his “lust for luxury”, the judge said, listing some of the things the former president’s son got with the money. It included luxury cars and a $590,000 mansion in neighboring South Africa.
In addition to the prison sentence, the younger Guebuza was ordered to pay a fine of 162,000 meticais ($2,500).
The trial began in August last year and lasted until March. It was broadcast on local TV and radio stations.
Many people, including anti-corruption activists and human rights activists, sat in the courtroom, a temporary space set up on a white balcony to receive the accused, their lawyers and other parties.
The loan exposed global corruption and led to lawsuits on three continents. Swiss bank Credit Suisse paid $475m last year for its role in issuing the loan.
Former finance minister Manuel Chang – who signed the loan – has been in South Africa since 2018, awaiting extradition to the United States for using the US financial system to commit fraud.