Mozambique has indicted 18 citizens for their involvement in fraud involving $2 billion in loans to state-owned companies, the attorney general’s office (AGO) said on Monday.
Former Mozambique finance minister Manuel Chang, 63, is one of the 18 indictees. He was arrested in neighbouring South Africa last week as part of the same case, and has denied wrongdoing.
Two major international banks are involved in the monumental loan scam.Apart from Credit Suisse, the Russian lender VTB also arranged financing for Mozambique’s state-owned companies.
“Mozambique AGO is indicting 18 defendants, (ranging) from public workers and other citizens, on charges of abuse of power, abuse of trust, swindling and money laundering,” it said in a statement.
The indictment came days after three ex-Credit Suisse bankers were charged in the United States with fraud over their role in Mozambique’s deal in 2013 in borrowing money from international investors to fund projects that included a state tuna fishery.
The attorney general’s office also said it would seek to have those charged in the United States and elsewhere to face charges in Mozambique, one of the most indebted countries in the world.
The southern African state admitted in 2016 to undisclosed lending, prompting the International Monetary Fund and foreign donors to cut off support.
This triggered a currency collapse and a default on Mozambique’s sovereign debt. It is still struggling to overcome the resultant debt crisis.
Mozambique’s ‘hidden debt’ of $ 2.2 billion (€ 1,920 million) accounts for half of the country’s total debt cost, although it accounts for less than 20 per cent of the total in absolute terms.
The ‘hidden debt’ is the term used to describe the loans made at the beginning of this decade to three public companies: the Mozambican Tuna Company (EMATUM), Mozambique Asset Management (MAM) and ProIndicus, which are under the Ministry of Defence.
The three presented maritime safety projects using Credit Suisse and VTB as their financial partners.
The Attorney General Office said it was only informed of the accusations that the US court imputed on Chang on December 31, through a copy delivered by the US embassy in Maputo, and not in response to the letter rogatory it sent to the US authorities in March 2017.
The indictment is also addressed to two more Mozambicans, as well as the former finance minister, the statement added.
The three defendants are accused of procuring the debt contracted between 2013 and 2014 by Proindicus, Ematum and MAM with banks Credit Suisse and VTB Capital, using a state guarantee.