WikiLeaks rips cover off Maputo corruption

2010-12-12 15:27

Horrific corruption and allegations that even the president is on the take; that tons of heroin and cocaine are heading for South Africa and the ruling party in Maputo is concerned only with stuffing its own pockets.

This is the picture that emerges of Mozambique in secret cables from the US embassy in Maputo to the state department in Washington and published on the WikiLeaks website.

In the four cables, sent in the second half of last year and the beginning of this year, the embassy warns that Mozambique might now be the second most active narcotics transit point in Africa after Guinea Bissau and alleges that President Armando Guebuza and his cronies are amassing fortunes through corruption, bribery and nepotism (see separate report).

Much of the embassy’s information is culled from a senior Frelimo insider and longtime friend of the president, who told the embassy: “Guebuza is a vicious scorpion who will sting you.”

The embassy concluded that the source was credible and that his statements “corroborate what we have learned from other sources”.

The cables warn that although Mozambique is not yet a narco state, the magnitude of drug shipments passing through Mozambique – mostly cocaine and heroin – might be on a much larger scale than was previously believed. Drugs are shipped from Mozambique to South Africa and then sent on to Europe.

The embassy says that of the nine cocaine and heroin seizures last year at Maputo Airport, none resulted in prosecution because police and custom officials used such seizures to enrich themselves by reselling the booty.

“Most drug seizures are not made public and not prosecuted because police and customs officials retain the drugs for resale,” says the embassy.

In May last year the police seized heroin worth R35?million at the Ressano Garcia border post with South Africa.

The embassy says the value of illicit drugs passing through the country probably surpasses its combined legal external trade.

“Endemic corruption among senior-level officials leads to a situation where drug traffickers are able to freely transit the country,” says the embassy.

“As a high-level law enforcement official said recently in private: ‘Some fish are too big to catch’.”
The embassy claims that Mozambique’s chief of customs, Domingos Tivane, is a “significant recipient of these narco-trafficking-related bribes”.

The embassy says he lives far above his means, has properties around Mozambique and has “solid gold fixtures” in his bathroom.

“The source also says former prime minister Luisa Diogo, until she was removed from the cabinet, was heavily involved in taking bribes for Frelimo, of which she kept a percentage.”

The embassy describes Mohammed Bashir Suleiman as the largest narco-trafficker in Mozambique and says he has direct ties with Guebuza and his predecessor, Joaquim Chissano.

Suleiman allegedly contributes heavily to Frelimo’s coffers and previously to the presidential campaigns of Guebuza and Chissano.

The office of the presidency recently ordered customs officials to exempt certain of Suleiman’s containers from standard scanning and scrutiny at the port of Maputo.

Embassy staff had personally witnessed Suleiman’s trucks being driven through the port without being scanned. Government officials describe Suleiman as “untouchable” due to his close relationship with the president.

The embassy’s source said that Suleiman, Guebuza and Frelimo “exercise complete control over the licit and illicit economy of Mozambique”.

The source is on such a good footing with the president that he has his personal cellphone number.
The embassy says its source is “liquidating his assets and leaving Mozambique, and says that he now sees the ‘malaise’ in Mozambique as if he ‘had cataracts but now sees it all’.”

In July US President Barack Obama named Suleiman as a drug baron under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act. As a result, any assets that Suleiman might possess in the US are frozen and all US citizens, companies and institutions are banned from doing business with him.

The Americans say Suleiman is the head of a crime and money-laundering network called Grupo MBS. He uses MBS to smuggle drugs from Pakistan via Dubai in containers also carrying electronic equipment, cooking oil and cars. He has business and crime connections in South Africa, Somalia, Pakistan and Latin America.

After being named by the US, Suleiman held a news conference in Maputo to deny the allegations and threaten to sue the Americans.

The Mozambican embassy yesterday said there was not enough time to get a response from Maputo.

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