On Wednesday, December 7th, a Mozambican court sentenced ex-president Armando Guebuza’s son and two ex-spy bosses to 12 years each for their respective roles in a corruption scandal where the government tried to hide massive debts, causing financial havoc.
19 defendants were charged in this corruption scandal, arguably the biggest scandal to hit the country, including the former chief of security and intelligence, Gregorio Leao, the head of the security service’s economic intelligence division, Antonio do Rosario, and the son of the former president, Armando Guebuza, Ndambi Guebuza.
However, 8 defendants were acquitted while the rest were handed terms ranging between 10 and 12 years in a verdict that took the judge a week to read out.
“The crimes committed have brought consequences whose effects will last for generations,” said Judge Efigenio Baptista, addressing a packed courtroom located on the grounds of a high-security jail in the capital Maputo.
Channels reports that the scandal arose after state-owned companies in the impoverished country illicitly borrowed $2 billion (1.9 billion euros) in 2013 and 2014 from international banks to buy a tuna-fishing fleet and surveillance vessels. The government masked the loans from parliament and the public.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other donors withdrew financial support after the “hidden debt” was ultimately revealed in 2016, which led to a sovereign debt default and currency collapse. An independent audit discovered that $500 million of the loans had been misappropriated. The funds still remain missing.
Handing down the sentence following after a week of reading the verdicts, Baptista said the scam had “aggravated the impoverishment of thousands of Mozambicans.”
“The country became famous for the worst reasons,” he said. “As high officials of the state they should have been (its) guardians.”