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The Maputo City Court has issued a warrant for the arrest of lawyer Alexandre Chivale, after he ignored a summons in January to appear as a witness in the trial of 19 people charged with crimes in connection with the scandal of Mozambique’s “hidden debts”.
Initially, it was thought that an international arrest warrant should be issued, in the belief that Chivale may have taken refuge in Lebanon, a country that the lawyer has visited frequently.
But, according to a report in Friday’s issue of the independent newssheet “Carta de Mocambique”, this possibility is now thought unlikely, and the search for Chivale is now concentrated on Mozambique itself.
Chivale is a lawyer for the family of former President Armando Guebuza, and last year he appeared at the “hidden debts” trial as the lawyer for the ex-President’s oldest son, Ndambi Guebuza, and for Antonio Carlos do Rosario, the former head of economic intelligence in the security service, SISE.
But on 19 October, Judge Efigenio Baptista ordered Chivale to leave the case, on the grounds of serious conflicts of interest.
On the very first day of the trial, 23 August, prosecuting attorney Sheila Marrengula had asked the judge to take action against Chivale because he is a director of Txovela Investments, a company effectively run by Rosario which has close links to the Abu Dhabi based group Privinvest.
Marrengula argued that Txopela is one of the channels for distributing bribes from Privinvest. After Rosario’s arrest, properties registered in his name were seized – but, much to the prosecution’s annoyance, they were handed over to Txopela Investments, as the “bona fide depositary”, despite Txopela’s close relations with Rosario.
In October, Baptista agreed with the prosecution that it was intolerable to allow Txopela to continue running the properties. Txopela, he pointed out, “is accused of money laundering, and that money was used to buy property, including the flat where Alexandre Chivale is now living”.
Chivale had to surrender the flat, and the keys to all Txopela properties. Baptista also threw Chivale off the case altogether because of his conflicts of interest.
But the judge soon wanted Chivale back in court – but as a witness, not a lawyer, to testify to the activities of Txopela, in which he was a director. A court officer tried to serve a summons on Chivale, without success, and in January Baptista threatened to have him arrested and brought to the court under guard.
Chivale now faces, not only the prospect of being forced to give evidence in the current trial, but also separate proceedings for the crime of disobedience.
According to “Carta de Mocambique”, the Public Prosecutor’s Office also believes it has sufficient evidence to charge Chivale, presumably for money-laundering.
Meanwhile, one of the accused, Renato Matusse, a former political adviser to Guebuza, has been unsuccessful in his attempt to win more time to hire a new lawyer, given that Baptista threw his two previous lawyers, Salvador Nkamate and Jaime Sunda, out of the courtroom last Friday for their repeated insults and challenges to his authority.
Baptista gave Matusse five days to hire a lawyer, failing which the court would appoint an official defender.
But on Thursday, Matusse said he was “uncomfortable” with an official defender because he believed that the next witnesses in the case (former Interior Minister Alberto Mondlane, and current Minister of Economy and Finance, Adriano Maleiane) “will be vital to my defence”.
Supported by the Mozambique Bar Association (OAM), Matusse asked for the trial to be adjourned until next week.
Marrengula opposed any further delay in proceedings: she could not see any connection between Matusse and Alberto Mondlane (who was already interrogated by prosecutors during the preliminary investigations). Baptista agreed, and rejected Matusse’s request.
He appointed as Matusse’s official defender Abdul Gani, who is one of the most experienced defence attorney’s in the country.
When Mondlane gave evidence later in the day, Marrengula was proved right – his testimony had nothing to do with Matusse.