Former Mozambican Finance Minister Manuel Chang is finally in Brooklyn and has appeared before a judge to answer for his alleged part in a financial corruption that defrauded American investors and nearly derailed Mozambique’s economy.
Appearing last Thursday before Judge Nicholas Garaufis, Chang pleaded innocent, meaning that he put himself up for a trial – this is perhaps the scenario part of Mozambique might have been hoping for, since that part believes that Chang is likely to open the proverbial Pandora Box to reveal all the secrets behind the $2.2 billion hidden debts scandal.
The scandal broke up in 2016, revealing how three Mozambican companies – ProIndicus, EMATUM (Mozambique Tuna Company) and MAM (Mozambique Asset Management), – had obtained $2.2 billion from the banks Credit Suisse and VTB Russia and contracted a sole contractor and supplier, the Abu Dhabi-based group Privinvest, to supply military and security hardware, as well fishing vessels and other assets at exceedingly inflated prices, between 2013 and 2014.
The operative work is secretive or hidden: the reason being that the donors had forbidden Mozambique from purchasing weapons, meaning that the country did not have modern military equipment to defend itself against potential threats. One of the warnings came in the form of the kidnapping by Somali pirates of the Spanish-Mozambican fishing vessel Vega 5 in December 2010, in Mozambican waters, with 24 crew members.
The announcement of new wells of natural gas in the northern Cabo Delgado province caused the then former President Armando Guebuza’s government to feel overly euphoric about the future and thus, try to find ways to closely monitor the oil and gas industry in that region of the country.
These two contexts alerted the state on the need to beef up its capacity to defend the national maritime space, including the Economic Exclusive Zone, leading an intricate game of spies, bankers, lobbyists, the president’s men, French-Lebanese businesspeople with shady dealings in politics and conflicts.
An intricate web of connections and schemes linking senior figures in South Africa’s security clusters: Joe Mokgokong, an elusive and little-known figure; General Solly Zacharia Shoke, former Chief of the South African Army, and the French-Lebanese rapprochement, Iskandar Safa, Jean Boustani (nephew of Iskandar Safa), to Guebuza’s clique on behalf of whistle-blower Teofilo Nhangumele recruited by former South African Mata Hari, Batsetsane Thlokoane, alleged representative of Abu Dhabi Mar LC part of Privinvest Group and known to General Shoke and agent of the South African External Intelligence Directorate.
What is still a mystery is what motivated the South Africans to impose Privinvest down the throats of the Mozambican intelligentsia.
The Royal Household
Although SISE (State Information and Security Service) was involved in the process of finding solutions to the threats to the nation, through an analysis and proposal of solutions by the Directorate of Studies and Projects, the role of Teófilo Nhangumele, an outsider, was crucial in approaching, involving and compromising the presidential family in the bribery scheme and the monumental kickbacks that followed. So much so that he even excluded his friend and SISE connection, Cipriano Mutota.
A victim of his ego, Guebuza was allegedly duped by Gregório Leão, SISE Director General, and António Carlos do Rosário, SISE Director of Economic Intelligence at the time, who were keen to control the next tenant of Julius Nyerere’s number 2000 and use him to provide political cover for this process: giving the biggest cake to Ndambi Guebuza, dragging in Alexandre Chivale, an outspoken and sworn Guebuzista, as a SISE collaborator to manipulate the entire legal defence narrative, muddy the prosecution’s argument with the political timing of the case and sell the idea of “factions fighting”.
The Zambézia Connection and succession
Leão and do Rosário appear to be key players in this intricate scheme of bribery, giving another dimension to the intrigue: the two are from the central Zambézia province, as do others.
This might have ensured that scheme was afforded the maximum possible secrecy, and that a considerably size of the cake was distributed among people from Zambézia.
But perhaps where the regional bent of the scheme would have been more impactful was in the succession process within the ruling Frelimo party. With the possibility of the central region of the country picking Frelimo’s presidential candidate, Leão and do Rosário would be well-placed to control the succession process.
Sources say that Chang would have landed the prime ministerial job, Leão, also a former ambassador to Portugal, was to be Foreign Affairs minister, do Rosário would substitute the former at the helm of SISE, and the top prize would go to Basílio Monteiro, a former Interior Minister.
The assets they acquired, especially do Rosário’s, would enable them to bribe out other would-be candidates and pick their own candidate.
The emergence of insurgents in Cabo Delgado is the most complex part of the fight against terror in Mozambique. The context eventually dictated the establishment of Proíndicus, EMATUM and MAM, security mechanisms outside the Defence and Security Forces (FDS) scheme and hierarchy, which would provide security services controlled by SISE through Rosário and his appointees – in other words, the companies would be milk cow for the security apparatus.
Unfortunately for all the national actors, this never came to pass and instead most ended up in prison after a lengthy trial.
The issue is whether in Brooklyn, far from the reach of Mozambique, Chang can feel safe enough to spill the beans – South African-based German academic and legal scholar Andres Thomashaussen had suggested that Chang might be killed if he continued in the South African prison system.
Certainly, with nothing to lose, Chang could eventually shed some light into who “New Man” referred to in the indictment documents is. Although Mozambicans strongly believe that the moniker refers to President Filipe Nyusi, who has spared no expenses in trying to stop Chang from going to the US.
Consequently, where Americans only see a fraudulent scheme, Mozambicans think lies the tip of the iceberg beneath which is an intricate political plot, which occurred because Frelimo has been taken over by a web of dangerous groups with very strong business ambitions that will use any means necessary to achieve their ends.
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