AID-DEVELOPMENT: Nordic aid agencies want prosecutor to investigate funds linked to murdered journalist

subscriber | 24 January, 2006

JOHANNESBURG. Just as the Mozambican journalist Carlos Cardoso´s murderer was sentenced to 29 years in prison the Norwegian and Swedish aid agencies Norad and Sida are making a move in a related matter.
The agencies are urging the Mozambican Finance ministry to hand over a ten year old case of misused aid funds involving $ 1.5 million to the country´s State Prosecutor, according to Africascan´s sources.
It is a bit late, as the funds in question were lent to a Portugues businessman, who never paid it back, in 1993.
But there is a controversy surrounding these particular funds: they have been publicly linked to the death of Carlos Cardoso, who was gunned down in Maputo in November 2000.
The immediate reason that the aid agencies are reacting now, is that a report by auditing firm Deloitte, commissioned by Norway, Sweden and Switzerland (France and Germany were not interested), was concluded in December.
The Deloitte report came to the conclusion that the Portuguese business man, Antonio Simões had received at least $ 1.5 million through companies he controlled, CSM and Trefel.
Carlos Cardoso, in two articles In 1998, made the accusation that Mr Simões possibly used these funds to purchase a privatized bank, Banco Commercial de Moçambique (BCM), in 1994.
Simões did so, allegedly, by more than a little help from political friends in or close to the then president Chissano´s government, including Octavio Muthemba, a former vice minister of heavy industry.
Yet another journalist, Antonio Siba-Siba Macuacua was also murdered, in August 2001, when he investigated Muthemba´s involvement in Banco Austral, yet another bank that went bust.
According to Carlos Cardoso Mr Simões received $17 million from the import support fund, capitalized by the donors and administered by the Ministry of Finance in Mozambique.
The Deloitte report dealt with a total of $ 7,7 million in loans from Norway, Sweden and Switzerland (which turned out to be German money), but not France´s $ 6 million (as France did not want to particilate).
While it could establish, despite very messy and confused accounting, that Simões received money from the three donors, it could not establish if and how that money, and much more, could have been used to purchase BCM.
To go to the bottom of the case, and see if there is any evidence that supports the deceased journalists accusation, it would therefore be necessary to check out Mr Simões´and his Portuguese companies accounts.
What was clear in the Deloitte report was that the machinery that was imported was an old, possibly useless, machine to make screws. The machines where never used.
Mr Simões, who now lives in Portugal, has also tried to do a deal with the Ministry of Finance: they have been offered shares in the companies, which has been turned down.
It is not that dark from a bad debt point of view. Apparently a South African company is interested in purchasing one of Mr Simões Maputo companies, it is well positioned next to the Maputo harbor. So there is a chance that some of the money lent will be paid back.
But the real issue in people´s mind is not the funds themselves, but to follow them through and see if Cardoso´s accusation holds water. If an unsubstantiated accusation can be substantiated.
Carlos Cardoso´s family´s lawyer Lucinda Cruz, is convinced that the now convicted murderer, Anibal dos Santos Junior (Anibalzinho), has protection in very high places. She points out that he showed “total arrogance and disrespect” during the court case and that he went out of his way to protect the Chissano family and the Frelimo government.
“Why was he obsessed by defending these people and entities”, Cruz asked, also pointing out that Anibalzinho had fled mysteriously from a high security prison ahead of his first trial in 2003, when he was sentenced in absentia.
Nyimpine Chissano, the businessman son of the former president, have regularly been mentioned in the media as the possible “Don Corleone”. He had a relationship with Mr Simões and was constantly trading on his family name. But he has not been charged.
Instead another group of businessmen have been found guilty of commissioning the murder, namely one manager within BCM and two Mozambican businessmen.
Their motive was that they had reason to believe that Cardoso had evidence of shady bank deals they had done and that he was after them.
What the Cardoso case ultimately has brought to the surface in Mozambique, is the extremely corrupt business environment, with Government ministers, or more often their family and relatives, involved in just about every large business deal in the country.
But besides these practices the Mozambique continues to be, very much so, the darling of the World Bank and the donor community.
As one observer pointed out, long as the country can continue to deliver 8-12 percent annual growth in the economy it most probably will stay that way.
Mozambique is certainly Norway´s and Sweden´s most favored aid receipient.
It received € 47.5 million (NOK 383 million) from Norway in 2003 and and it received € 59.4 million (SEK 550 million) from Sweden last year.
None of this is in the form of import support any longer. Mainly because it is not necessary, Mozambique has made its transition from socialist to a capitalist economy. Banks have taken over the role of the State to finance import.
Which does not mean that there are not other kinds of funds that can be misappropriated.
A large chunk goes towards budget support, a favored method to absorb large sums of aid funds, e g 26 percent of Swedish aid to Mozambique goes towards budget support; it goes straight into the Mozambican state budget.
There are more and better controls today than in 1993, says aid professionals, but, as one aid professional puts it “there are no guarantees” against corrupt practices.
That why it is still of interest to go after Mr Simões, even if it has nothing to do with Carlos Cardoso´s tragic, pre-mature, death.

Africascan comment

According to a prominent London based journalist, Joe Hanlon, the Deloitte report establishes that there is an indirect link between the aid funds in question and the murder of Carlos Cardoso: Mr Antonio Simões himself.
He did receive the kind of funds as journalist Carlos Cardoso said all along – Cardoso had little support or help from the aid agencies at the time to get answers.
But the Deloitte report did not investigate Mr Simões accounts in Portugal to establish how the funds received were used.
It appears that the donors have been sloppy in demanding accountability as this goes back ten years.
One reason for this is that it has been seen as a responsibility by the Mozambican state to go after defaulters.
But the lack of action has more to do with political sensitivities. The donors have been delighted with Mozambique´s overall progress during the past ten years. The government has managed to turn around the economy; part of the price is corruption and a system of ministerial patronage. Most government ministers tend to have delightful villas with lovely sea views in Maputo, despite their rather miserable salaries.
With the new president Armando Gebuza in place there is a chance that there will be probes into the past, mainly against Chissano loyalists.
So there is still hope that there is more to come in the case of Carlos Cardoso´s murder.

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