Hidden debts: Jean Boustani will not testify – AIM report

Hidden debts: Jean Boustani will not testify – AIM report
Hidden debts: Jean Boustani will not testify – AIM report

Africa-Press – Mozambique. Judge Efigenio Baptista, of the Maputo City Court, announced on Thursday that Jean Boustani, a senior official of the Abu Dhabi based group Privinvest, will not be testifying in the current trial of 19 people accused of crimes arising from the scandal of Mozambique’s “hidden debts”.

Boustani was one of the architects of the corrupt scheme that involved the creation of three fraudulent companies, Proindicus, Ematum (Mozambique Tuna Company) and MAM (Mozambique Asset Management), which obtained over two billion dollars of loans from the banks Credit Suisse and VTB of Russia, on the basis of illegal loan guarantees issued by the government of the then President, Armando Guebuza.

Privinvest became the sole contractor for the three companies and sold them fishing boats, patrol vessels, radar stations and other assets at vastly inflated prices. An integral part of the scheme consisted of bribes and kickbacks paid to Credit Suisse bankers and Mozambican officials amounting to at least 200 million dollars. Boustani personally handled many of the bribes.

The Maputo City Court decided to call Boustani as a witness on 31 August – although the proposal first came from Alexandre Chivale, who was then a lawyer for Ndambi Guebuza, the oldest son of President Guebuza.

The prosecution claimed that Boustani gave a 33 million dollar bribe to Ndambi Guebuza – who did not deny links with Boustani, but claimed they had nothing to do with bribes. He told the court that any payments made to him were under a “partnership” he had set up with Boustani.

But he refused to give the court any information about this alleged partnership. What is known about the money sent by Privinvest for Guebuza’s use in South Africa is that it was used to buy real estate and luxury cars.

It was decided to allow Boustani to testify via video-conference. Contacts were made with the judicial authorities in Boustani’s home country, Lebanon, and the video link was tentatively scheduled for Friday, 3 December.

But on Thursday, Baptista announced that this has been cancelled, because Boustani is already an accused person in a second “hidden debts” case in another section of the City Court.

Baptista claimed he did not know about this. Because of the Mozambican sub judice rules, he was unaware that the Public Prosecutor’s Office had already charged Boustani with corruption. An accused person cannot be asked to testify in another case about the same facts (in this case, the hidden debts). So Baptista believed he had no alternative but to revoke his original dispatch, authorising Boustani to testify via video-conference.

Baptista is thus claiming that he did not notice the story published by the Maputo daily “Noticias” on 2 September that an international warrant had been issued for Boustani’s arrest, and was in the hands of Interpol.

The Mozambican Attorney-General’s Office (PGR) has repeatedly summoned Boustani to appear in Mozambique – first to provide information to the auditors from the company Kroll Associates, who were investigating the three fraudulent companies in 2017, and then to appear before preliminary hearings into the additional case arising from the “hidden debts” in which he is one of the accused.

Boustani ignored every summons sent by the PGR. His current whereabouts are unknown.

Some of the defence lawyers protested that the court had already heard testimony from people accused in “autonomous” hidden debts cases – namely the former chairperson of the Bank of Mozambique, Ernesto Gove, and a former central bank director, Joana Matsombe. Apparently Baptista also did not know about the charges against Gove and Matsombe.

A third accused in this case is another former director of the Bank of Mozambique, Waldemar de Sousa. At the request of the Mozambique Bar Association (OAM), which is assisting the public prosecutor in the current trial, Sousa’s name was added to the list of witnesses – but given Thursday’s developments, it now looks most unlikely that he will testify.

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