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Economy - Development | Society

New documents on Mozambican President's son published

Misanet/AIM, 9 September - The independent Maputo weekly 'Savana' on Friday published the 1998 contract between the privatised Austral Bank and Nyimpine Chissano, oldest son of Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano, under which Nyimpine Chissano was to be paid US$ 3,000 a month for consultancy work. In an earlier murder and corruption trial, Nyimpine Chissano had denied any contacts with Austral.

The contract, dated 1 October 1998, was signed a year after the privatisation of Austral (previously known as the People's Development Bank, BPD). The majority shareholders, who purchased 60 percent of the bank, were a consortium formed by the Southern Bank Berhard of Malaysia, and Invester, a group of Mozambican companies, led by former Industry Minister Octavio Muthemba, who became chairman of the board.

Austral collapsed under a mountain of bad debt in April 2001. The private shareholders refused to re-capitalise the bank, and handed their shares back to the Mozambican state. The Bank of Mozambique promptly stepped in and appointed an interim board of directors, led by the head of its banking supervision department, Antonio Siba-Siba Macuacua.

Mr Siba-Siba embarked on a debt recovery programme, and cancelled contracts he considered irrelevant to the bank's interests - including that with Nyimpine Chissano.

On 11 August 2001, unknown assailants murdered Siba-Siba in his office at Austral headquarters, and hurled his body down the stairwell. In December 2001, the bank was re-privatised and 80 percent of it is now owned by the ABSA group of South Africa.

The 1998 contract was signed by Nyimpine and by the Malaysian general manager of Austral, Koojambu Muganthan. It is very short, containing just 11 clauses, and the duties assigned to Nyimpine Chissano are extremely vague. He was charged with advising the bank "on matters of a socio-economic nature, both in the form of ideas and drawing up documents, and on work already produced, providing the assistance requested, and issuing opinions".

A few lines further on, Nyimpine Chissano's tasks were specified as "advising the bank in the area of socio-economic matters in general, and on partnership in investments, giving the opinions that may be requested of him". The only other duties specified were to observe strictly deadlines given for presenting work, and to respect banking secrecy.

In exchange for this, he was to receive 3,000 dollars a month, net of tax. (The bank undertook to pay the taxes due on this income.) Austral promised to pay promptly, and to make available all the documentation needed for Nyimpine Chissano's work.

At the time, Nyimpine Chissano was not yet 30 years old. The contract was valid for a year, renewable automatically ever year thereafter, unless denounced by either party.

During the trial of the six men convicted of murdering Mozambique's top investigative journalist, Carlos Cardoso, Nyimpine Chissano was called to the witness stand. Among the matters raised by judge Augusto Paulino were Nyimpine Chissano's relations with the Austral Bank - and he failed to mention the 1998 contract.

Asked by judge Paulino, on 5 December 2002, if he had any commercial relations with Austral, the President's son replied: "I have an account at the Austral Bank".

- You also worked for the bank, added Mr Paulino. "I never worked for the Austral Bank", replied Nyimpine Chissano.

Mr Siba-Siba cancelled Nyimpine Chissano's contract on 26 April 2001, three weeks after he had been appointed interim chairman. His letter to Nyimpine Chissano is also published in Friday's 'Savana'.

In this short letter, Mr Siba-Siba politely said that the bank found it "objectively impossible" to continue the contract. Money still owing to Nyimpine Chissano would be set off against the loan he had taken from the bank.

'Savana' also suggests that Nyimpine Chissano could be called as a witness in the current trial of seven policemen accused of facilitating the escape from the Maputo top security prison in September 2002 of Anibal dos Santos Junior ("Anibalzinho"), the man who headed the death squad used to murder Mr Cardoso.

On Tuesday, Momade Assife Abdul Satar, one of the businessmen convicted of ordering the assassination, claimed that Nyimpine Chissano was among those who organised "Anibalzinho's" escape.

In 2002, when Mr Satar tried to implicate Nyimpine Chissano in the murder of Mr Cardoso, judge Paulino called Mr Chissano Jr to the witness stand. The judge in the current case, Carlos Caetano, could do the same, 'Savana' suggests.

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