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Defence lawyers are trying to prevent prominent Mozambican civil society activist, Denise Namburete, from testifying at the trial in New York of Jean Boustani, a sales executive of the Abu Dhabi based group Privinvest, deeply involved in the scandal of Mozambique’s “hidden debts”.
This refers to the loans of over two billion US dollars obtained by three fraudulent, security related companies, namely Ematum (Mozambique Tuna Company), Proindicus and MAM (Mozambique Asset Management) from the banks Credit Suisse and VTB of Russia. The banks handed over the money on the basis of illicit loan guarantees given by the previous Mozambican government, under President Armando Guebuza.
Boustani faces charges of conspiracy to commit money laundering, wire fraud and securities fraud. The prosecution has produced a devastating trail of e-mails and bank documents which, it claims, indicates payment by Privinvest of bribes and kickbacks of at least 200 million US dollars.
According to a report in Wednesday’s issue of the independent newssheet “Carta de Mocambique”, Boustani’s lawyers have sent an affidavit to the New York court vehemently protesting against the possibility of Namburete giving evidence. Namburete is currently in New York, and will testify, if the court allows her to give evidence.
Namburete represents the Budget Monitoring Forum (FMO), which brings together some 20 Mozambican civil society organisations. It has lobbied actively to send Mozambique’s former finance minister, Manuel Chang, currently under police custody in South Africa, to join Boustani on trial in New York.
The FMO obtained “friend of the court” status in Johannesburg, where last Friday the Gauteng high court overturned the decision of previous justice minister Michael Matsupha, that would have sent Chang back to Mozambique. The court decision opens the possibility that Chang will be extradited to the US rather than to Mozambique.
In the affidavit, the lawyers claim that Namburete has no “personal knowledge” of the case against Boustani and that she has been involved in public protests against budgetary decisions of the Mozambican government.
They seemed to find it shocking that Namburete had actively supported extradition of Chang to the US, and that the FMO had publicly argued against any restructuring of the bonds that were initially issued by Ematum.
This position is common to all of Mozambican independent civil society, and is backed up by the June ruling of the Constitutional Council, the highest body in matters of constitutional law, which declared null and void all acts concerning the Ematum loan. Also null and void “with all the legal consequences” is the loan guarantee issued by the Guebuza government.
Boustani’s lawyers were also annoyed by Namburete’s insistence (again shared by a vast number of civil society bodies) that the Ematum loan guarantee is invalid. They claimed that only the British courts could determine this (presumably because the loans were negotiated with the London branches of Credit Suisse and VTB) – but in reality the matter has already been decided by the Constitutional Council, against whose rulings there can be no appeal.
The lawyers objected to Namburete’s active presence on Twitter and other social media, where she has repeatedly attacked the hidden loans, using the hashtag “illegal debts”.
As if they were lawyers for Credit Suisse, Boustani’s defence team also mentioned Namburete’s arguments on social media that Credit Suisse had effectively acquiesced in the illegal activities of the bank’s then employees, Andrew Pearse, Surjan Singh and Detelvina Subeva, who had handled the Mozambique loans, and who have all pleaded guilty to counts of conspiracy.
The defence team has been assiduously trawling through Namburete’s Twitter feed. The affidavit cites a Twitter post by Namburete stating that “This case reveals huge system failures by Credit Suisse. They must be held to account as well as their bankers”.
This position is far from extraordinary – it is held, not only by Mozambican civil society, but also by European NGOs working on debt issues, who believed that Credit Suisse cannot be exempted from responsibility for the illicit loans.
The lawyers claim that Namburete’s testimony would be “irrelevant” and that she is “not a specialist” – but at the same time want to exclude her because she has been closely following the trial, and is familiar with the evidence given against Boustani. Allowing her to testify would be “unfair and deeply prejudicial to our client”, the lawyers say.
The lawyers say they were only informed last week that Namburete would be called, and so have had no time to seek rebuttal witnesses.Source: AIM
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