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A New York court has classified the investigation of Mozambique’s so-called hidden debts as a “complex case”, and has scheduled a pre-trial session for February 7.
The court opted for the “complex case” classification because of the number of defendants from different countries involved – eight defendants of at least five nationalities: Mozambican, Lebanese, Bulgarian, New Zealander and British.
The decision was announced during Tuesday’s hearing before the Federal Court of the Eastern District of New York, the first in this case, which was presided over by Judge William Kuntz.
A “complex case” involving a large number of suspects, lawyers, witnesses and evidence points to judicial process with a heightened degree of intensity and longer duration, which is why Jean Boustani’s defence counsel opposed the classification.
The US Attorney General’s Office, represented by four bailiffs and a FBI federal police inspector, says it has collected more than one million pages of communications transcripts, bank transfers, suspect bank records and false documents that it will introduce into evidence before the end of next week.
Much of the session was taken up with a proposal of Lebanese national Jean Boustani, the main suspect currently held in the US, to cooperate with the organs of justice there. No decision was taken on Boustani’s request for house arrest, which was postponed to the next hearings.
Prosecutors said the high-security residence proposed by Boustani’s defence team, constituted differential treatment for defendants of greater economic power, being a “private prison” of high status and whose security officers could become “employees” of the defendant.
High flight risk
The prosecution also argued that Boustani would continue to present a high flight risk if granted bail. According to prosecutors, the owner of Privinvest, which Boustani represented, may obtain false identity documents for him and facilitate his escape.
Maintaining that the risk of flight cannot be concretely proven, Boustani’s defence gave examples of several cases in federal courts in New York where the defendants, who had no connection to the United States, were entitled to house arrest.
The new hearing in New York will take place on February 7 at 11hoo am two days after the hearing of Mozambique’s former finance minister Manuel Chang in Johannesburg, South Africa. Chang faces extradition to the United States as part of that country’s investigations into Mozambique’s ‘hidden debts’.
The case began in December in a New York court and focuses on the figure of the negotiator Jean Boustani as the main creator of a scheme of corruption and monetary fraud in Mozambique.
In addition to Jean Boustani, four people are already detained and awaiting decisions on extradition to the United States: Andrew Pearse, Detelina Subeva and Surjan Singh are seeking parole in the United Kingdom, while Manuel Chang is detained in South Africa, the subject of extradition requests from both the United States and Mozambique. Three other accused are in detention, at least two former officials of the Mozambican government.Source: DW