Mozambique News Agency

Carlos Cardoso murder trial update 26 November

Meetings with Nyimpine Chissano alleged

Maputo, 26 Nov (AIM) - Confessed assassin Carlitos Rashid Cassamo on Tuesday repeated his claim that he witnessed three meetings between Nyimpine Chissano, eldest son of President Joaquim Chissano, and Anibal dos Santos Junior ("Anibalzinho"), the fugitive accused of organising the death squad that murdered Mozambique's top investigative journalist, Carlos Cardoso.

Under questioning from the prosecution, Rashid told the Maputo City Court that the first such meeting took place in September 2000 behind the Xenon cinema in central Maputo.

He made clear that it was at this meeting that Nyimpine Chissano gave Anibalzinho a plastic bag containing 100 million meticais (about 4,200 US dollars, at today's exchange rate).

The second meeting between the two that Rashid witnessed was in December 2000, shortly after the assassination, on the Maputo coast road. By then Rashid was anxious about the rest of the money he had been promised for the murder - 750 million meticais in all. So far he had only received 50 million.

But no money changed hands, and Rashid recalled Anibalzinho telling him "the boss says the money will come".

Rashid says the third meeting was again near the Xenon, in February 2001. Again, Anibalzinho came back empty-handed. On all these occasions, Rashid had to stay in the car: Anibalzinho did not want him to meet Nyimpine, allegedly because he had promised to recruit a South African assassin, not a Mozambican one.

Anibalzinho did make a couple of additional payments to Rashid, but he claimed the total was only 77 million meticais, or slightly more than ten per cent of what he had been promised. Rashid said Anibalzinho had also promised him a new house.

He said that, in the months preceding the murder, the hit squad had stalked Cardoso, following him from his office to his home "many times", but had not struck on any of these earlier occasions "because there were always police about".

But Rashid also said that on all these occasions, the AK-47 used was hidden in the boot of the car, which would have made an ambush quite impractical. Only on 22 November 2000 was the murder weapon beside the seat, ready for immediate use by the assassins.

Judge Augusto Paulino clearly found the story of earlier failed assassination attempts hard to swallow. "How were you going to kill Carlos Cardoso with the gun in the boot?", he asked.

"I don't know - we were just following orders from our commander, Anibalzinho", Rashid replied. "But on 22 November, he took the gun out and put it by the seat, saying that if we didn't kill Cardoso that day, then he'd give the whole thing up".

Defence lawyer Simeao Cuamba continued the thankless task of defending a man who has escaped from prison - and also his parents. Rashid had said on Monday that Anibalzinho's mother, Teresinha Mendonca, was well aware of the murder: how could he possibly know that?, Cuamba asked.

Rashid insisted that "after the killing, his mother knew. She knew because she's Anibalzinho's accountant".

Once again, he told the court that Mendonca had urged him to flee, so that he could not incriminate her son. He said she offered Rashid's wife 500,000 meticais (about 20 dollars). His retort was that there was nowhere he could flee to with such a small sum. "What am I going to do with 500,000? You've got lots of money from your son", he told her.

Rashid also claimed that Anibalzinho's father had intervened, by deleting all of his son's mobile phone numbers from the memory of Rashid's phone. He had told Rashid that the record of these numbers "will be dangerous if the police ever find this phone".

Ramaya denies everything

Maputo, 26 Nov (AIM) - Former bank manager Vicente Ramaya on Tuesday denied all involvement in the murder of Mozambique's best-known journalist, Carlos Cardoso.

He told the Maputo city Court, on the sixth day of the murder trial that he did not know any of the three members of the death squad who carried out the assassination - Anibal dos Santos Junior ("Anibalzinho"), Carlitos Rashid Cassamo and Manuel Fernandes ("Escurinho"). Ramaya said the first time he had met any of them was in prison.

Ramaya is a key figure in one of Mozambique's major banking scandals. In 1996, members of the Abdul Satar family opened accounts in Ramaya's branch of the Commercial Bank of Mozambique (BCM), which was about to be privatised. In a few months dozens of worthless cheques were deposited in these accounts, but 144 billion meticais (14 million US dollars at the exchange rate of the time) of real money flowed out into pockets of the Satars and their associates.

Ramaya has been accused of masterminding this fraud, which Cardoso investigated intensively - particularly in 2000 when Eneas Comiche, a prominent deputy in the ruling Frelimo Party, denounced it in parliament, and attacked the failure of the Attorney-General's office to bring the case to trial.

The judge, Augusto Paulino, noted that Cardoso "wrote many article about you and the BCM", and asked whether he had felt any anger towards Cardoso.

Ramaya claimed that initially he did not even know about the articles "because I was not a subscriber to ''Metical'' (the daily independent newsheet owned and edited by Cardoso)".

But when one article was shown to him, Ramaya exercised his right of reply, which Cardoso promptly published. He said he was later in contact with Cardoso via prominent jurist Abdul Carimo, but denied that Cardoso had written to him.

But in fact Cardoso suggested a public debate with Ramaya about the banks. Far from not writing, Cardoso sent Ramaya a fax containing a series of question on the banks - and it was Ramaya who did not reply.

Ramaya did not deny the role of the Satars in the fraud, freely admitting that one of his co-accused, Momade Assife Abdul Satar ("Nini"), had deposited 22 of the fraudulent cheques in his account.

But he insisted repeatedly that the real amount of money stolen from the BCM in the 1990s was much more than 14 million dollars. He claimed that a total of over 300 million dollars had gone missing, but did not tell the court how he had reached this conclusion.

Ramaya denied stealing any money himself, and said that he and Nini Satar had collected data on "the real beneficiaries" of BCM frauds. He named two members of the BCM board of directors of the time, Alberto Calu and Teotonio Comiche, plus three executive managers, Diogo Linlino, Rogerio Cossa and Manuel dos Santos Pereira, as these "real beneficiaries".

There is nothing new about some of these accusations. Nini Satar's younger brother, Asslam, currently believed to be living in Dubai, admitted his part in the fraud - but then claimed he was acting on behalf of, among others, Alberto Calu. As for Teotonio Comiche, he was first accused by Diamantino dos Santos, the attorney in charge of the initial investigation into the fraud. But it was found that dos Santos was part of the corrupt schemes which had penetrated the Attorney-General's office: he had taken money from the fraud, deliberately disorganised the case papers, and concealed important documents. Eventually a warrant was issued for his arrest, and he is currently on the run.

Ramaya said he was not a friend of Nini Satar, and their relations were restricted to BCM matters, As for Nini's brother, Ayob Abdul Satar. also on trial for Cardoso's murder, Ramaya denied knowing him.

He was clearly surprised when Paulino asked him if he had ever borrowed a mobile phone from his mother-in-law, Zubaida Abdullah, or had registered a mobile phone in her name. "As far as I know she doesn't have a cell phone", he said.

So how was it, the judge asked, that the phone records showed that in November 2000, the month of the murder, "there were phone calls from Nini to your mother-in-law, from Anibalzinho to your mother-in-law, and from Ayob to your mother- in-law".

"I don't believe it", said Ramaya. "She never had any relations with these people". Paulino insisted. "On 22 November (the date of the murder) there were many calls from your co-accused to your mother-in-law. So we want to know if you used her cell-phone, or registered a phone in her name".

Ramaya continued to insist that there was no such phone. But the records of the M-Cel mobile phone company, released to the court, are powerful tools for the prosecution case.

Ramaya admitted that he had underwritten a loan of 450,000 dollars to Zulfika Sulemane, a businessman from his native province of Cabo Delgado. He said he was "the intermediary" between Sulemane and Maria Candida Cossa, who put up the money.

Ramaya was the guarantor: he would repay if Sulemane defaulted.

This is the second time Candida Cossa's name has been mentioned in this trial. Nini Satar alleged that it was she who introduced him to Nyimpine Chissano, eldest son of President Joaquim Chissano, who asked him to pay 1.2 billion meticais to Anibalzinho, which he claims was payment for the murder. Ramaya did not explain where Candida Cossa, who once worked for customs, might have obtained 450,000 dollars. But a survey of January 2001 from the auditing company KPMG, on the state of the crisis-ridden Austral Bank, listed the bank's many non-performing loans, and two of them were in the name of Maria Candida Cossa.

Ramaya resisted judge Paulino's probing. He invoked "banking secrecy" for giving no further details on Candida Cossa's finances - even though Cossa's loan to Sulemane did not go through any banks.

Sulemane's project in Cabo Delgado depended on funding from the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private sector lending arm of the World Bank. But this funding fell through, Ramaya claimed, because "South African experts" rejected the project on environmental grounds.

This produced "a critical situation", he said, with Candida Cossa demanding her money back, and Sulemane unable to pay.

"Candida said I had to deal with the problem", Ramaya said, and eventually "an out-of-court solution was reached".

Nothing about this story makes much sense, and Ramaya stonewalled Paulino's efforts to decipher it.

Ramaya also denied he had ever claimed that former attorney- general Antonio Namburete and the former chairman of the Austral Bank, Octavio Muthemba, were behind the assassination, although such statements are attributed to him in a police record of a discussion with Ramaya following Anibalzinho's escape on 1 September.

Ramaya said the mention of Namburete and Muthemba was "just rumours" circulating among the prisoners. He declined to say which prisoners retailed such rumours, since naming names in the top security prison "means certain death".

He added that "two or three" people who ordered Cardoso's death, but are now out of the country, also facilitated Anibalzinho's escape. But he declined to name them for the court, because "I have no proof".

Ramaya exposed a police racket in the prison: he admitted that, against prison rules, he had acquired a mobile phone. But this had not been smuggled into the jail - it was rented to him by a police officer nicknamed "Tiger" (he claimed not to know his real name).

"The guards hire out mobile phones to prisoners", Ramaya said. "Use of a phone for an hour costs 100,000 meticais, and for a day 300,000".

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