A court in Mozambique sentenced 11 people, including two former intelligence chiefs, to up to 12 years in prison for their involvement in a corruption scandal that secretly added $2.2 billion to the African country’s debt.
At Maputo City Court on Wednesday, Judge Efigenio Baptista read out the verdicts for two former Mozambican intelligence chiefs involved in the scandal.
The two intelligence officials, Antonio Carlos do Rosario and Gregorio Leao, were sentenced to 12 years in prison. Angela Leao, Gregorio’s wife, was sentenced to 12 years in prison.
Rosário and Leao were both found guilty of embezzlement, money laundering and other crimes.
Ndambi Guebuza, son of former Mozambican President Armando Guebuza, was also sentenced to 12 years in prison. The court considered it proven that the son of the former president accepted bribes to influence his father to approve a coastal protection project, used to raise the money that fed the hidden debts.
The judge said those convicted must return the $2.2 billion. The court said the deadline for filing an appeal is 20 days.
Jurist Paulino Cossa said the verdict shows that no one is above the law in Mozambique.
“Indeed,” he said in Portuguese, “this shows that in our country, whatever it could be, there are no untouchables.”
The judge said that he did not find “sufficient evidence” to convict eight of the 19 defendants charged in connection with the scandal. However, during the trial, which lasted for three months, sitting President Filipe Nyusi was implicated in several testimonies.
The debt scandal was discovered in 2014 when Nyusi was minister of defense. Three Mozambican state-owned companies secretly borrowed $2 billion from international banks to finance purchases of fishing vessels and military patrol boats.
In 2016, the scandal was discovered because the loans were contracted without parliamentary approval and behind the backs of the creditors of a country that is among the 10 poorest in the world and dependent on international aid.
Cooperation partners, including the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, withdrew aid to Mozambique and plunged the country into an unprecedented financial crisis and defaulted.
To date, some of the money has not been found. According to an independent audit, $500 million disappeared.