Mozambique: Hidden debts: Ematum was a security operation disguised as fishing boats, according to Rosario

Maputo – Former Mozambique Security Service (SISE) economic intelligence chief Antonio Carlos do Rosario claimed on Tuesday that some of the work of the Mozambique Tuna Company (Ematum) was actually done for the defense forces and security of the country, but it could not be admitted publicly “because it might scare the banks.”

Rosario was testifying in Maputo Municipal Court for the fifth day in a row in Mozambique’s “hidden debts” case, in which he is one of 19 suspects, charged with crimes including embezzlement and money laundering. money.

Ematum and two other fraudulent companies, Proindicus and MAM (Mozambique Asset Management), obtained more than two billion dollars from Credit Suisse and VTB banks in Russia, in 2013 and 2014, on the basis of illegal loan guarantees issued by the government of the time. , led by President Armando Guebuza. Rosario became chairman of the board of directors of the three companies.

His claim that the tuna fishery was in part a facade for security activities failed to convince prosecutor Sheila Marrengula, who stressed that there was nothing on defense and security in the statutes of the company Ematum, or in the viability study.

When asked if there was any evidence of his claim, Rosario admitted that “the only evidence is the transfer of equipment from Ematum to the Defense Ministry”. They must have been the three trimaran patrol boats, known as “Ocean Eagles”, since the 24 other boats of the Ematum fleet are clearly visible, lying unnecessarily at anchor in the fishing port of Maputo.

Rosario claimed that the Ematum fleet was the only means available to the defense and security forces to monitor the entire exclusive economic zone of Mozambique, from the South African border to the Tanzanian border. He drew a picture of boats in search of anything out of the ordinary along the 2,800 kilometers of the Mozambican coast.

The satellites did not provide sufficiently sharp images of objects floating in the ocean, and even the use of Proindicus radars and planes might not clarify the image sufficiently. It is therefore necessary to use the Ematum vessels. If criminal activities were taking place, such as human trafficking, traffickers would only see fishing boats and not realize they were under surveillance.

It’s a funny story, but there is no evidence that such an Ematum surveillance operation ever took place. Judge Efigenio Baptista asked Rosario if this really justified Ematum’s $ 850 million debt, which was on top of Proindicus’ existing debt of $ 622 million.

“Why spend all this money?” He asked. Were Proindicus’ radars, boats and planes so inadequate that a bogus fishing company also had to be used?

Rosario argued that this was to cover up the true nature of Ematum, so that the banks would not find out that some of the money was being used for defense purposes. He argued that the subterfuge was necessary “because Mozambique had no money. Only the defense and security forces would know that Ematum had a defense aspect ”.

Even more serious was the Ematum scam that its supplier, the Abu Dhabi-based Privinvest group, had pulled. The loan money went from the banks, not to the companies in Maputo, but to Privinvest, which then sent the fishing boats and other assets to Mozambique at vastly inflated prices, as shown by the independent audit carried out. in 2017 by the company Kroll.

Marrengula pointed out that Privinvest charged Ematum $ 22.3 million for each of the 21 tuna longliners, but independent experts recruited by Kroll estimated that the market price for such a vessel was no more than $ 2 million. The total overbilling of all 27 boats supplied to Ematum amounts to more than $ 600 million.

Rosario declined to explain this discrepancy and insisted that the deal with Privinvest was good, as it allowed for a transfer of technology.

He also insisted that $ 500 million of the $ 850 million Ematum loan had been used for “defense spending”. However, in 2017, then Defense Minister Atanasio M’tumuke categorically denied receiving defense-related goods from this money. Rosario himself had taken a letter for M’tumuke to sign, saying that these goods had been received.

M’tumuke refused to sign, and Rosario said it was because the letter was really written by Kroll (whom he considers a dangerous nest of Western spies. ”He admitted he did not no way to prove this claim.

Moreover, Privinvest itself had denied having supplied any form of military equipment. There is also a simple mathematical argument: Once the money for the fishing boats was deducted, there was only $ 500 million left in the Ematum loan.

Marrengula asked who had provided this mysterious defense equipment. “It’s a state secret,” Rosario barked.

Another problem with Ematum was that when the fishing boats arrived, the Fisheries Inspection Unit of the National Maritime Institute (INAMAR) declared that they were all unfit for tuna fishing.

“This is news for me,” said Rosario – but he immediately backed off and admitted that adjustments needed to be made to the boats to bring them into line with Mozambican law. Rosario claimed the problem was with outdated colonial-era fishing legislation, and it was the legislation that needed to be changed, not the boats.

Marrengula also pointed out that Ematum’s viability had been called into question due to the high operating costs of the three trawlers which would have had to catch bait (squid), as well as high insurance and mooring costs.

This criticism came from an inside source – Cristina Matavele, who had previously been CEO of Ematum, and left the company in 2016. She said insurance costs US $ 40,000 per quarter for each of the Ematum boats. , and the mooring fee was $ 258 per day for each boat.

“She never told me that Ematum was not viable!” Exclaimed Rosario. Her lawyer, Alexandre Chivale, stressed that Matavele seemed to have changed her mind, since in 2015 she had written a supplement in the Maputo daily “Noticias” as a defense. He will certainly have the opportunity to question him, since the court called Matavele as a witness.

Another mystery was the “onshore operations center”, which Privinvest should have provided – but there was no sign of it.

“All the assets of Privinvest have been provided,” said Rosario. “The operations center existed at the time of my arrest” (early 2019).

“So where is he?” Asked Marrengula.

“It’s a state secret. I’m not telling you!” Rosario retorted.

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