A Mozambican court sentenced the son of a former president, two ex-spy bosses, and eight others to years in prison for their roles in a corruption scandal in which the government attempted to conceal massive debts, causing financial havoc.
On Wednesday, the 11 were found guilty and sentenced on charges related to a $2 billion “hidden debt” scandal in which hundreds of millions of dollars in government-backed loans vanished, causing the southern African country’s economy to crash.
Nineteen people, including state security officials, were charged with money laundering, bribery, and blackmail; the remaining eight were acquitted by the Maputo court.
Armando Ndambi Guebuza, son of former President Armando Guebuza, was sentenced to 12 years in prison, while others convicted received terms ranging from 10 to 12 years.
“Armando Ndambi Guebuza showed no remorse for committing the crime and maintains that he was targeted for political reasons,” Maputo City Court Judge Efigenio Baptista said.
“Ndambi continues to deny that he wrongfully benefited from $33 million that the Mozambican people desperately need.”
Two other top intelligence officials, General Director Gregorio Leao and the head of the economic unit, Antonio Carlos do Rosario, were sentenced to 12 years in prison.
Ndambi Guebuza was convicted of embezzlement, money laundering, and criminal association, among other charges, while Leao and do Rosario were found guilty of embezzlement and abuse of power.
According to the judge, those convicted contributed to Mozambique’s poverty.
“The defendants tarnished the country’s good image abroad and in international markets, with long-lasting and difficult-to-repair consequences,” he said.
The scandal arose after state-owned companies in the impoverished country illegally borrowed $2 billion from international banks in 2013 and 2014 to purchase a tuna-fishing fleet and surveillance vessels. The government concealed the loans from parliament and the general public.
When the “hidden debt” was finally revealed in 2016, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other donors withdrew financial assistance, precipitating a sovereign debt default and currency collapse.
An independent audit discovered that $500 million in loans had been diverted. The funds are still missing.
Former President Guebuza, who was in office at the time the loans were made, testified at the trial but was not present on Wednesday.
His son stood up as the judge read the verdict, dressed in a black sweater over an orange prisoner jumpsuit.
During the trial, Baptista stated that Ndambi Guebuza acted intentionally “to exert influence on his father” and get the government to approve the purchase of the vessels.
He accepted a $33 million bribe to satisfy his “desire for luxury,” according to the judge, who listed some of the assets the former president’s son purchased with the money. Luxury cars and a 10-million-rand ($590,000) mansion in neighboring South Africa were among them.
In addition to the jail sentence, the younger Guebuza was ordered to pay a fine of 162,000 meticais ($2,500).
The trial began in August of last year and lasted until March of this year. It was carried live on local television and radio stations.
Dozens of people sat in the courtroom, a makeshift facility set up in a white marquee to accommodate defendants, their lawyers, and other parties.
The debt scandal exposed global corruption and sparked legal proceedings on three continents. Credit Suisse, a Swiss bank, was fined $475 million last year for its role in the loan’s issuance.
Former Finance Minister Manuel Chang, who signed off on the loans, has been detained in South Africa since 2018, awaiting extradition to the US for allegedly using the US financial system to carry out the fraudulent scheme.