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The Public Prosecutor’s Office has demanded compensation of more than US$900,000 from a former Transport and Communications minister and two senior managers who allegedly received bribes from the Brazilian aircraft manufacturer.
According to Wednesday’s (28.02) edition of Mozambican newspaper CanalMoz, the total compensation demanded is 83 million meticais.
Former minister of Transport and Communications Paulo Zucula is ordered to pay the state 40 million meticais (about US$500,000), former senior manager at Saso Mateus Zimba, 33 million (about US$400,000) and former president of Mozambique Airlines (LAM), José Viegas, 10 million meticais (about US$100,000).
The three are part of an investigation into the receipt, between 2008 and 2009, of approximately US$800,000 from Embraer in exchange for the purchase of two aircraft of the Brazilian manufacturer by LAM. After the investigation, the Public Prosecution Service asked the Bank of Mozambique to correct the amount so that the compensation was collected.
In an interview with DW, Mozambican Public Integrity Centre (CIP) investigator Baltazar Fael, said the accusation could be “a light at the end of the tunnel” for other corruption cases being investigated in the country.
DW Africa: What does the CIP think of the damages amounts stipulated?
Baltazar Fael (BF): I think the stipulated amount goes against the alleged figure they [the defendants] negotiated with Embraer. And the Bank of Mozambique updated the US$800,000 dollars suggested at the time to a value today.
DW Africa: What does this announcement by the Attorney General mean, at a time when cases like this are undermining Mozambique’s international image?
BF: It’s always bad, because, in fact, people start looking at Mozambique as a country where corruption is something that is not tackled effectively. But on the other hand, if there is an accusation and an investigation which results in the condemnation of individuals, it lends a boost to the judicial system in Mozambique, which is clearly discredited in the sense that it allegedly addresses only small but not large-scale corruption. This is a case of average-sized corruption, but clearly it shines a light at the end of the tunnel, suggesting that the institutions of justice can rise to the proper standard and start investigating other, large-scale corruption cases.
DW Africa: Do you think that this accusation will help in negotiations with public debt creditors who are demanding greater transparency in Mozambique?
BF: Clearly, no. If you’re referring to the hidden debts scandal, every case is different. The LAM-Embraer case is one case and the hidden debts case is another. There is no possible connection. I do not think donors are concerned about this LAM case because it does not affect them, clearly. It may affect the country’s image, but it does not affect funders who have lent money to the Mozambican state.
DW Africa: Has the accusation of these former official occurred because of the trans-national character of the case, or is the Mozambican justice system more attentive to the corruption crimes that affect the state?
BF: It is difficult to give a definitive answer, because here in Mozambique we are running several parallel cases of large-scale corruption. As to repairing the damage, ex-ministers have already been convicted of involvement in corruption cases, but that was in 2008 and 2009. There is a very large shortfall in investigating cases of major corruption. Of course the Attorney General (PGR) does not force the emergence of these cases, but, on the other hand, we believe that there are still several situations of large, medium and small corruption in this country.
The PGR does not investigate because it is a more reactive than proactive institution, always waiting for denunciations from newspapers or international institutions to start acting. What we want to see from our PGR and the Central Office to Combat Corruption in particular is them becoming more proactive where there are indications of crimes, conducting investigation of a precautionary character to see if they can gather evidence underlying these suspicions. We have long been sceptical of our justice institutions, and they will have to do a very thorough job to convince people that they have changed their attitude.