By Jorge Joaquim
Former Mozambican President Armando Guebuza has reacted angrily to a request to speak to the country’s Attorney General, in a statement he made to the Council of State and which has been leaked to the media. Guebuza is named as a ‘Third Party’ in a claim being made by the Mozambique government against Credit Suisse and three former Credit Suisse bankers; Lebanese businessman Iskandar Safa; and five companies related to his Privinvest group. Mozambique wants the London Commercial Court to rule guarantees backing loans arranged by Credit Suisse to Mozambican state-owned entities, signed by the former finance minister, invalid — and to order the defendants to pay Mozambique compensation for damages caused by the scandal and resulting financial crisis caused by the deals.
The‘Third Parties’ in the claim — who also include former Deputy Finance Minister Isaltina Lucas, and the former President’s son Armando Ndambi Guebuza, have been included in the claim by Credit Suisse as parties it may seek indemnification from. Credit Suisse also reportedly wants to include sitting President Filipe Nyusi in the case, and has enquired with the Mozambican authorities as to his immunity.
The Council of State was convened, virtually, on 15 September, to discuss a request from the office of Mozambique’s Attorney General, or Procuradoria Geral da República (PGR), to interview Guebuza ahead of his possibly being called to testify in London. The PGR’s request comes in light of new and highly compromising evidence.
As a member of the Council of State, the summons by the PGR must be approved by the Council of State before Guebuza needs to honour it. In his statement to the meeting, seen by Guebuza accuses the PGR of citing him in the London case — and says it is “strange that our Attorney General has preferred to cross sub-Saharan Africa, the Sahara desert, the Mediterranean sea, continental Europe and the Channel, to obtain clarifications from a national citizen resident here.”
“When we joined the Mozambique Liberation Front, in hiding,” Guebuza continued, “we had the noblest aspiration to see our homeland, the homeland of heroes, freed from the colonial yoke, guaranteeing the reaffirmation of our Mozambicanity, respect for the rights and freedoms and the well-being of all Mozambicans. And this aspiration remains intact.”
Guebuza’s intervention lays bare the animosity between him and the regime of President Filipe Nyusi — describing the PGR’s latest request as “a continuation of an attempted political assassination” which gained “tonic” after a speech he gave last month at the Eduardo Mondlane University in Maputo. The speech included strong criticisms of the Nyusi government. “Our sovereignty is in question. … We’ve stopped believing in ourselves. We had the Renamo situation for 16 years, and two more years, but we didn’t stop believing that Mozambique was ours, and that we would win. Now voices are starting to appear, that doubt that,” Guebuza said.
He also lists a number of occasions when he has felt mistreated by by the PGR — having found out through the press in 2017, for example, that the PGR had demanded access to his banking records; and an instance in 2018 when the PGR asked him to answer questions about the offshore security deals financed by Credit Suisse and supplied by Privinvest.
On that occasion, Guebuza deferred to President Nyusi to decide whether he should answer the PGR’s questions. Nyusi replied that he should — to which Guebuza replied in turn that the matter ought to go before the Council of State, though he grudgingly agreed to answer the questions anyway. In his statement, Guebuza also condemned the PGR for not taking seriously an alleged attempt to poison him and his family, which happened in 2018.
Guebuza said he would still meet with the PGR to answer their questions. The Council of State itself did not make a decision on it, with the Frelimo members asking for more time. The three Renamo members abstained on the question. The Council could be reconvened in October.
The Commercial Court in London expects to hear the case in January 2021, having in July included Safa as a defendant, and having limited the various defendant’s rights to appeal.
Guebuza seems to have misunderstood who is citing him in the London proceedings. If it were Mozambique — the Claimant — then he would be a Defendant. In fact, he is a Third Party subject to a ‘Part 20’ claim, which is a counterclaim or additional claim that defendants can make. It is the bank that requested the inclusion of Guebuza and the other Third Parties. Without the background of Guebuza’s animosity to the current regime — including the Attorney General whom he appointed — it would appear natural that the PGR and Guebuza would confer ahead of a trial in which they are both pitted against Credit Suisse. But Guebuza instead sees his real enemy as the PGR. There have been persistent rumours since Guebuza was toppled from the leadership of Frelimo in 2015 that there is an internal war going on within Frelimo. This statement from Guebuza confirms that — and so Mozambique presumably cannot count on his support in trying to win its case against Credit Suisse, despite his protestations that the loyalty to Mozambique that caused him to join Frelimo in the first place remains intact.
Guebuza was first interrogated by the PGR and the special Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry (CPI) after the emergence of the secret debt in 2016.
António Muchanga says Guebuza is reaping what he has sown
Renamo MP António Muchanga said Armando Guebuza is “reaping what he has sown”, following the former president’s complaint that the Attorney General’s office is acting in a political manner in the case of so-called hidden debts. Guebuza himself appointed the Attorney General, Beatriz Buchili, in 2014, because — Muchanga says — she was a suitable figure to carry out political expediencies — including the episode of the convening of the Council of State on 19 July that year, in order to remove Muchanga’s immunity, arrest him and humiliate him.
Muchanga said that Guebuza was lucky, because he should have suffered the same indignity as Muchanga who was handcuffed and arrested just after the end of the Council of State session. “Armando Emílio Guebuza has to eat the bread that he helped the devil to knead,” Muchanga said in a press conference.
It has taken five years since Guebuza left office to force his interrogation, but marks how much his power within Frelimo has declined.
The ‘hidden debts” case
The ‘hidden debts’ are related to loans worth $2.2 billion (€2 billion) taken out between 2013 and 2014 with the British subsidiaries of the investment banks Credit Suisse and VTB by the Mozambican state companies Proindicus, Ematum and MAM.
The loans were secretly endorsed by the government of the Liberation Front of Mozambique (Frelimo, the party in power since independence), led by Guebuza, without the knowledge of parliament or the Administrative Court.
Among the 19 defendants arrested in Mozambique are figures close to the former President, such as one of his sons, Ndambi Guebuza, and his secretary, Inês Moaine. The Mozambican Public Prosecutor accuses the defendants of criminal association, blackmail, taking bribes, embezzlement, abuse of position or function, violation of management rules, and forgery.