Mozambique News Agency

Carlos Cardoso murder trial update

5th December

President's son denies involvement

Maputo, 5 Dec (AIM) - Businessman Nyimpine Chissano, the oldest son of Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano, on Thursday denied all knowledge of five of the six men charged with the murder of the country's top investigative journalist Carlos Cardoso.

He said that he had never met or spoken with Anibal dos Santos Junior ("Anibalzinho"), the man accused of organising the death squad.

He thus denied the claim made by a second assassin, Carlitos Rashid, who told the court he had seen Anibalzinho meet Chissano Jr on three occasions, once before the murder and twice afterwards, Rashid alleged that on the first of these occasions Nyimpine gave Anibalzinho a bag containing 100 million meticais (about 4,200 US dollars). When the judge asked if he had ever given someone 100 million meticais, Chissano Jr replied "Not that I recall".

Nyimpine also denied any knowledge, other than through the media, of Rashid, Manuel Fernandes ("Escurinho"), Ayob Abdul Satar or Vicente Ramaya.

But it was a different story with the sixth accused, Satar's younger brother, the money-lender Momade Assife Abdul Satar ("Nini"). Nyimpine said that his associate Maria Candida Cossa, a former customs official, had introduced him to Momade Satar at his office in the Unicambios foreign exchange bureau (owned by the Satars), where "he was helping Candida with a loan".

Nyimpine said he could not remember the date, but added that he had no further relations with Satar, and never did business with him.

Satar claims that Nyimpine Chissano borrowed 1.2 billion meticais from him, and that Chissano asked him to pay this money directly to Anibalzinho. Satar claims he had no idea what this money was for, but after discussions with Anibalzinho in prison, he realised it was to pay for the murder.

To prove his story, Satar handed the court seven cheques from Nyimpine Chissano's company, Expresso Tours. These postdated cheques, Satar alleged, were the guarantee that Chissano would repay the 1.2 billion meticais.

Nyimpine's explanation for these cheques was radically different. He flatly denied ever asking Satar to pay money to Anibalzinho, or to anyone else.

He said that Expresso Tours had asked for a loan, not from Satar, but from Candida Cossa. The cheques, postdated, and with the space for the payee left blank, were given to Cossa as guarantees of repayment.

Nyimpine said the company had a cash flow problem: it needed money to pay suppliers, and turned to Cossa for help, with the promise that as soon as money from clients came in, she would be repaid. She would then return the cheque "guarantees".

But when Expresso tours paid Cossa, "We asked for the cheques back, and they were not given to us. She said they were in the possession of Unicambios". He recalled Cossa saying "she had negotiated some cheques with Unicambios".

His mind went blank on all the details of this odd transaction. He could not remember how much interest Cossa had charged, nor how much money Expresso Tours had borrowed from her, nor many cheques in all were issued.

However, he was sure that there were more than the seven cheques Satar presented to the court. He said some had been returned to Expresso Tours, while still others remained in the hands of Unicambios. "We don't know why Unicambios held on to the cheques", he said.

Nyimpine made no attempt to explain why Expresso Tours borrowed money from Cossa rather than using a bank. If Cossa is lending large sums of money at high interest rates, this is just loan-sharking, and is illegal.

Chissano could not recall when Cossa had granted the loan - but all the cheques presented to the court had payment dates from October 2000 to January 2001 - i.e. immediately before and after the murder of Carlos Cardoso.

He said that Expresso Tours was prepared to take out loans against cheque guarantees from people it regarded as "trustworthy", and Cossa fell into this category - even though Chissano admitted that he only met her a year previously in 1999.

He said he had met both her and the then head of the government's Customs Restructuring Unit, Pedro Bule, at Cossa's house with several others in "mid or late 1999". This was a meeting to discuss setting up an import company - Chissano said Cossa had invited him even though they had never met before.

"Social gatherings" were later held at Cossa's house, attended by Nyimpine and his friend Nanaio Pateguana. He denied that either Momade Satar or Anibalzinho was present on these occasions. (Allegations were made last week of conspiratorial meetings at Cossa's house, involving all these people, and which planned the murder of Pedro Bule - later called off - and of Cardoso.) One of the accused, former bank manager Vicente Ramaya, said he met Nyimpine Chissano twice at Cossa's house. Chissano did not recall either occasion.

Asked if he had ever been offended by articles written by Cardoso, Nyimpine said that several articles that appeared in Cardoso's paper "Metical" had "affected" the Chissano family. But he said he harboured no vengeful feelings, and that the family had decided to remain silent.

(Cardoso believed that the business dealings of the President's family should be public knowledge, and had written extensively about them.) Chissano claimed that the entire family was "affected", from his great-grandparents right down to his one year old child. When the presiding judge, Augusto Paulino, noted that this child had been born after Cardoso's death, Nyimpine retorted "he's still affected by the articles".

Chissano said he had never spoken to Cardoso, or to any other journalist sent by Cardoso to speak to him. But there are articles in "Metical" which quote Chissano speaking to the paper's reporters, and, on one occasion, hanging up on them.

Chissano also told the court he had never worked for the privatised Austral Bank. But on 5 August, the weekly paper "Savana" reported that Austral had hired Nyimpine Chissano as a consultant on a salary of 3,000 US dollars a month as from 1997, and that his contract was terminated when the private shareholders pulled out, in April 2001, and a provisional board headed by Antonio Siba-Siba Macuacua took over.

The "Savana" article said that Siba-Siba wrote a letter to Chissano Jr telling him that his services were no longer required, and that any money owing to him would be discounted against his outstanding debt to Austral. This "Savana" story has never been denied.

The questioning of Chissano will continue on Friday, when Candida Cossa is also due to testify.

Lawyer complains of threats

Maputo, 5 Dec (AIM) - Abdul Gani, lawyer for Vicente Ramaya, one of the six men charged with murdering Mozambican journalist Carlos Cardoso, on Thursday told the Maputo City Court that he received threatening phone calls on Tuesday, after he had submitted prosecution witness Osvaldo Muianga ("Dudu") to tough cross-examination.

Gani said there had been two phone calls that evening warning him to give up the case. He complained that security was provided for the judges in the case, but not for the lawyers.

"Who is afraid of the truth?", asked Gani. "I am not a hero, but I will continue. I will continue undertaking the intransigent defence of my client, because I believe he is innocent. It is not blackmail and threats that will make me give up".

The presiding judge, Augusto Paulino, sympathised with Gani, and recalled that he too had come under threat. He urged anyone with a complaint at the way the case was going to say so openly, "instead of making cowardly, threatening phone calls".

Nobody should think that they could force a particular result out of the case. "Evidence is like a cashew - when it's ripe, it falls to the ground, you don't have to force it", said Paulino.

He said he wanted "appropriate security measures" for all the lawyers involved, both for the prosecution and for the defence.

Paulino noted that among those who had made threatening phone calls were some of the accused, who had illicitly obtained mobile phones in the top security prison and had used them to intimidate witnesses and their relatives.

Taped phone conversations inaudible

Maputo, 5 Dec (AIM) - The prosecution in the Carlos Cardoso murder trial at the Maputo City Court on Thursday played taped phone calls which it said proved attempts to bribe prosecution witness, Osvaldo Muianga ("Dudu").

On Tuesday, the prosecution had shown the court a sackful of banknotes - amounting to 6,500 US dollars, and 135,150,000 meticais (about 5,700 dollars).

This was allegedly money paid by relatives of three of the accused, Vicente Ramaya and the brothers Ayob and Momade Abdul Satar, to Muianga's mother, Fatima Razak. Supposedly, the purpose of the bribe was to persuade Muianga to change his story. He had claimed that Ramaya and the Satar brothers were present at conspiratorial meetings in the Rovuma Hotel in mid-2000. The money was to pay for a new story that left Ramaya and the Satars out altogether.

But when the tapes were played the quality was so poor, that neither the presiding judge, Augusto Paulino, nor anyone else in the court, could make much sense of them.

The first call was from Momade Satar to Fatima Razak, and the second from Satar to Muianga.

Muianga confirmed to the court that the call had taken place and it was his voice on the tape. He said that he was speaking to Satar and had recognised Satar's voice.

Muianga said Satar had rung him on the mobile phone of his brother, Danilo, after confirming the time that Danilo would be visiting Muianga (who is incarcerated in the Maputo Civil Prison, charged with the attempted murder of lawyer Albano Silva in 1999). He said the call had taken place at around 19.00 one day last week.

Asked to recall the contents of the call, Muianga was reluctant to speak initially, because Satar had used an obscene phrase. Paulino authorised him to repeat it, whereupon Muianga said Satar had asked him "Don't you want to fuck up Frangoulis?" (the former head of the Maputo Criminal Investigation Police, who was in charge of most of the investigation into the Cardoso murder).

Muianga said he had replied: "I'm not interested in fucking up anybody, just in telling the truth".

Satar denied making the phone call. He claimed it had been placed "by someone imitating my voice".

Given the poor quality of the tape, Paulino ordered that a full transcript be made and delivered to the court within five days.

One piece of evidence given by Muianga, however, does put Frangoulis on the spot. He claimed that Frangoulis had asked him to change his story, and switch the venue of the alleged meetings from the Rovuma Hotel "to the house of Nyimpine Chissano" (son of President Joaquim Chissano). Muianga refused to make this change.

According to Muianga, these meetings were plotting, not the murder of Cardoso, but a second attempt to assassinate Albano Silva. He alleges that Frangoulis wanted the story changed "because of problems with the room numbers".

(Initially, in March 2001, Muianga claimed the meetings took place in room 105 or 106. But there are no rooms with these numbers in the Rovuma. After a variety or wildly different statements, Muianga now claims not to remember either the number of the room or even which floor it was on.) Given Muianga's testimony, the defence lawyers are now demanding that Frangoulis be called back to the witness stand.

Muianga's reliability as a witness has also been undermined by the records of the mobile phone company, M-Cel. These show that he was in constant phone contact with Momade Satar, and with Anibal dos Santos Junior ("Anibalzinho"), the man accused of organising the death squad, in the days immediately preceding and immediately following Cardoso's murder.

Yet Muianga told the court that months earlier he had decided to cut his ties with Anibalzinho and Satar. So what were these phone calls all about?, asked Paulino.

Muianga claimed the calls were "all about money", including money he owed Satar for a car he had rented.

As for Nyimpine Chissano, Muianga claimed he had once done some work for his company, Expresso Tours, for which he had been paid 3,000 rands (about 300 US dollars at current exchange rates). This had involved asking people to lend their cars (preferably Mercedes saloons) to Expresso Tours so that it could hire them out for a large conference.

Muianga said he had obtained this work thanks to former customs official Candida Cossa, who was the lover of his cousin, Pedro Bule, and also a friend of Nyimpine Chissano.

The name of Candida Cossa is appearing repeatedly in this trial, and she will probably be called to the witness stand on Friday to give her own version of events.

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