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Jean Boustani told a US court on Tuesday that he “never” proposed payments in exchange for signing contracts in Mozambique. [You may access the original full court transcript of November 19 HERE]
Boustani, a negotiator for Privinvest, a United Arab Emirates-based naval engineering company, is charged with conspiracy to commit economic fraud and wire transfer, bribery and money laundering fraud.
At the hearing, he stated that he never proposed payments in exchange for signing contracts in Mozambique in talks with Teófilo Nhangumele, “intermediary agent” for Privinvest company with Mozambican policy makers.
Boustani, who began working with Nhangumele in 2011, said the company would pay the intermediary a commission if a project was approved by Mozambique, but never before the end of the project.
The defendant indicated that Nhangumele was to be paid at the end and that payment from Privinvest should go into the project budget, and asked for an estimate of the cost of the “commission” intended by the Mozambican intermediary.
Instead of pointing out a percentage, as was normal with intermediary agents, Nhangumele sent an ’email’ asking for “50 million chickens.”
In court, Boustani said he considered that reference “very strange but funny” and that, on the advice of other mentors within Privinvest, he accepted the request by e-mail to test whether the process would go ahead.
At meetings held in January 2013 with the former Mozambican head of state, Privinvest’s negotiator said he had warned Armando Guebuza about Nhangumele, “an agent who said there had to be a US$50 million payment and that part of the money was related to the President.”
He presented the matter to former Mozambican president’s response in an “extremely straightforward” manner. “I said, There’s a person called Teofilo Nhangumele who we are dealing with as an agent, and he claimed that there’s arrangement fee or a payment of $50 million that has to happen. And that this — part of this money, or the bulk of the money is related to you. So I was extremely straightforward with that,” Boustani told the court.
According to the court transcript, Boustani said that former president Guebuza had then told him: “The president looks at me straight and says, Mr. Boustani, you are talking about a big strategic project. You are talking about Abu Dhabi. Talking about payments. You’re talking about serious things here. So my answer to your question is simple. Nobody, nobody, me, or not any single public official in Mozambique will be allowed to take one penny in order for them to do their job on this project. Whoever asked you for a penny say, no, and you come to me and you let me know who asks for this and you say “busta”. I told him, Your Excellency, it is clear, and sorry for saying this, but I had to do it. And then we leave his office”.
Following the establishment of the Proindicus coastal surveillance project, Nhangumele was paid US$8.5 million (€7.67 million) by Privinvest.
In his statement, Boustani also recalls that, at times, he thought that Nhangumele was working in a “strange and non-serious” manner before the project was approved.
On November 11, 2011, Nhangumele asked for confidentiality and in an e-mail to Boustani wrote: “To ensure that the project receives approval from the head of state, a payment must be agreed before we get there.” Boustani said Privinvest did not accept this condition.
Privinvest provided vessels and coastal protection services to Mozambican state-owned companies Ematum, MAM and Proindicus, which borrowed millions of dollars with Mozambique government guarantees.
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