See also:
» 18.03.2010 - Election dates finally set for São Tomé
» 18.02.2009 - Coup leaders charged in São Tomé
» 05.08.2008 - São Tomé invests in undersea link
» 25.06.2008 - São Tomé and Príncipe flights back to Europe route
» 17.06.2008 - Still no govt in São Tomé
» 04.06.2008 - Protests against anticipated São Tomé polls
» 17.10.2007 - São Tomé and Principe reduces trade deficit
» 28.03.2006 - Election re-run in São Tomé after irregularities

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São Tomé and Príncipe
Politics | Economy - Development

Two São Tomé ex-PMs face corruption charges

afrol News, 17 February - Former Prime Minister of São Tomé and Príncipe, Guilherme Posser da Costa, this week renounced his parliamentary seat and immunity to face corruption charges together with another ex-PM, Maria das Neves. The São Toméan President earlier had threatened to dissolve parliament to be able to prosecute "delinquents" with immunity, referring to Mr da Costa and three other MPs.

Ex-Prime Minister da Costa made a strong-worded speech in parliament before resigning, protesting being named "delinquent" by President Fradique de Menezes. He said he questioned the sense of democracy experienced in São Tomé and Príncipe given the way President Menezes was let to manipulate parliament.

Mr da Costa is accused of being involved in a corruption scandal surrounding the government's foreign aid fund (GGA). Between 2001 and 2004, an estimated 21 billion dobras (euros 2.7 million) were embezzled from this fund, according to accusations by the São Toméan Attorney General. The aid fraud scandal led to the sacking of Ms das Neves from the Prime Minister's office in September last year.

Since November last year, Mr da Costa has stood accused of participating in the GGA corruption scandal, together with Ms das Neves and four other MPs. A São Tomé court has urged parliament to strip these MPS of their immunity. This was rejected twice by the opposition majority in parliament in January.

President Menezes' on 28 January publicly threatened to dissolve parliament if MPs did not bow into the pressure from the judiciary. Parliamentary immunity had not been granted to the people's representatives "so that they can transform into delinquents with impunity or that they obstruct the judiciary," said President Menezes, adding that he would "not tolerate this carnival" for much longer time.

This threat by the President to dissolve parliament however made several MPs to change their mind. Mr da Costa would have faced a loss of parliamentary immunity this week anyway if he had not chosen to step down, according to reports from São Tomé.

In his last speech to parliament, the ex-Prime Minister denounced the "populist" and "shameless" statements made by President Menezes. "He shall not dear to call me a delinquent," he said addressing the President and emphasising that he spoke "without parliamentary immunity" but only as "the citizen Guilherme Posser da Costa." As a citizen, he was demanding the respect of not being called a delinquent, urging the President to look into the mirror when watching out for delinquents.

- I am hereby renouncing my mandate as an MP, said Mr da Costa. "I renounce it because I consider that this democracy and this assembly have no meaning anymore, and there is no more meaning in what we are doing." He explained this by saying that parliament had ceased being a sovereign agency by again giving into the threats of President Menezes.

Since the election of Mr Menezes of the conservative MpD party in 2001, there has been a continuous power struggle between the presidency and parliament, which has a small majority of the traditionally left-wing MLSTP party of Mr da Costa and Ms das Neves. President Menezes, who has sacked five Prime Minister since he came to power, mostly has succeeded in strengthening the presidency at the cost of national lawmakers.

The São Toméan President himself is accused of a corruption case that has been given remarkably little attention by the Attorney General. In her dramatic last statement as Prime Minister, Ms das Neves "challenged" President Menezes to explain São Toméans the background to "the US$ 100,000 that have been transferred by an oil company and ended up in the accounts of CGI, his private company." History would show, she claimed in September, that ills had not been done by her, but by the President himself.

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