Son of Mozambique’s ex-president remanded in graft case

Former Mozambican finance minister Manuel Chang, seen in a January 8, 2019 court appearance, is fighting extradition to the United States over accusations of money laundering conspiracy, conspiracy to wire fraud and conspiracy for security fraud. Picture: AFP / File / Wikus DE WET

Former Mozambican finance minister Manuel Chang, seen in a January 8, 2019 court appearance, is fighting extradition to the United States over accusations of money laundering conspiracy, conspiracy to wire fraud and conspiracy for security fraud. Picture: AFP / File / Wikus DE WET

Authorities last week arrested seven other suspects, while former finance minister Manuel Chang was arrested in Johannesburg on December 29.

A Mozambique court today remanded in custody the son of a former president, his lawyer said, following his arrest in a crackdown on a $2-billion government debt scandal.

Ndambi Guebuza, the oldest of Armando Guebuza’s four children, was picked up from his home in the capital Maputo at the weekend.

He was arrested in connection with government borrowing which plunged the country into its worst ever financial crisis.

Analysts say the scandal could hurt Guebuza’s party, the ruling Frelimo, at elections later this year.

“The objective is to sacrifice the Guebuza family because of the elections,” said Ndambi Guebuza, according to his lawyer Alexandre Chivale.

The lawyer added that his client was remanded in custody after the closed-door hearing in Maputo.

Authorities last week arrested seven other suspects, including businessmen and intelligence officials, in connection with the debt scandal.

The scandal came to light in 2016, a year after ex-leader Guebuza left office following 10 years in power.

It is alleged that while he was still in office, the government in Maputo took out loans amounting to $2 billion to buy a tuna-fishing fleet and surveillance ships, but hid the transaction from parliament and international donors.

An independent audit found that a quarter of the loan amount was diverted, and unaccounted for.

When the debt was revealed, Mozambique — one of the world’s poorest countries which relies on donor aid — was plunged into  crisis as donors froze contributions.

The United States alleges at least $200 million was spent on bribes and kickbacks, including $12 million for former finance minister Manuel Chang, who allegedly signed off the debt.

Chang, 63, was arrested at Johannesburg’s O.R. Tambo International Airport on December 29 on a US extradition request over his alleged involvement in the fraudulent loans to state firms. He was denied bail on Thursday.

Businessman Ndambi Guebuza is alleged to have received $9.7 million in bribes, according to a US indictment.

Domingos de Rosario, professor of political science at Eduardo Mondlane University, said the arrests could create divisions in the ruling Frelimo party as it heads into elections later this year.

“Frelimo is already in a bad way,” he said, warning of possible “serious electoral consequences”.

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