Mozambique fraud trial begins as voters go to the polls - WSJ
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Jean Boustani told a US court on Wednesday that Privinvest donated millions of dollars for election campaigns. According to Boustani, the company donated US$4million (€3.6 million) to the ruling Frelimo party to “support the presidential campaign” in 2014. [You may access the full court transcript of November 20 HERE]
Boustani stated that no payment was “a bribe” related to the projects of Mozambican companies Ematum, MAM or Proindicus which, in 2013 and 2016, took on international loans guaranteed by the Government of Mozambique, giving rise to the so-called “hidden debt” of US$2.2 billion (€2 billion).
In addition to contributing to the 2014 presidential campaign, Privinvest also contributed US$5 million (€4.5 million) to former Mozambican finance minister Manuel Chang’s “campaign for parliament”.
Giving testimony on accusations of bribery paid by Privinvest to members of the Mozambique government and other authorities, such as Manuel Chang, Antonio Rosario, Isaltina Lucas, Renato Matusse and others, Boustani denied that they constituted “bribery”, and referred to them rather as support for “private business” or “personal plans”.
The explanation began with a meeting at Privinvest’s headquarters in Abu Dhabi in 2014, attended by Privinvest founder and CEO Iskandar Safa and himself . “I think it was May 2014, by which time we knew how big the projects in Mozambique were. It was also the campaign of future president Filipe Nyusi, to which we contributed,” Boustani said, before being interrupted by lawyer Michael Schachter.
Later in the statement, Boustani’s defence showed an email from Jean Boustani to Privinvest’s chief financial officer, according to which an entity “A” should receive US$4 million.
That value “specifically related to — this was the period of time of the campaign of Frelimo party of upcoming President Nyusi,” he said. “This 4 million was a payment to the contribution to Frelimo party from Privinvest for the campaign election of upcoming President Filipe Nyusi,” Boustani told the court.
Earlier during the hearing, Boustani’s lawyer had asked him if former finance minister Manuel Chang “had spoken of his plans” during a visit by the Mozambican delegation to Privinvest’s premises in France and Germany.
Jean Boustani said Manuel Chang had told him that he was “tired” of political office and that he was thinking of opening a bank. “I mean, once the elections come and the new president, Nyusi, he’s president, he [Manuel Chang] doesn’t believe he will continue being minister of finance, because he’s tired, he’s been doing it for maybe two decades.,” Boustani said.
According to Boustani, Chang said he “that he had already like a business. He had bank businesses. And then also he had a consulting business and he was planning to open a bank.” and “he wanted to run for to be a public member or a congressman.”
According to the statement, Manuel Chang asked if there was an interest “to fund this or make some kind of payments related to this thing”. Iskandar Safa agreed, saying that “he could support the parliamentary campaign”.
“And at that stage, so during the dinner with Mr. Safa, we asked, How much you think is needed for the campaign and for the bank license and for the different things, you know? So he said, in his opinion, $5 million is good. So it’s sufficient to start the process,” Boustani said.
That was how Boustani came to send a receipt of a US$ million transfer made to Thyse International Incorportation. Manuel Chang had approved the loan for Proindicus eight months before the transfer. The project had been signed off on in February and the transfer was made in October.
For Privinvest, the money transfers intercepted by the US Attorney were for “influence and lobbying”, Boustani said, citing the company’s president, Iskandar Safa. The payments were part of “a budget” he said. “So Mr. Safa told me that for the different activities, investments, building the relationships, the lobbying of the interests that they have, for all the things they are thinking of for the long-run future in Mozambique, I accept the budget, so I want you to know about it,” Boustani said.
Manuel Chang, detained in South Africa, faces extradition warrants to both the United States and Mozambique for involvement in the bribery scheme.
This trial is underway in a United States court because US Prosecutors understand that some bank transfers passed through intermediary banks in New York and US investors suffered losses as a result of investing in Mozambique.Source: Lusa
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