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Nyimpine Chissano charged over Cardoso murder

Maputo, 11 May (AIM) - The Mozambican public prosecutor's office has charged businessman Nyimpine Chissano, oldest son of former President Joaquim Chissano, with the murder in November 2000 of the country's top investigative journalist, Carlos Cardoso.

A legal source contacted by AIM on Thursday confirmed that the charge sheet was delivered to the Maputo City Court about a fortnight ago. In it, Chissano Jr is accused of "joint moral authorship" of the murder - in other words, he is alleged to be one of those who ordered the assassination.

AIM's source added that the indictment also accuses Nyimpine Chissano of "various economic crimes". However, the source could not confirm a claim that appears in Thursday's issue of the weekly paper "Zambeze", according to which a Maputo prosecutor issued a warrant for Chissano's arrest.

The Maputo City chief attorney, Virginia Maria, cited by "Zambeze", said the case against Nyimpine was sent to court "because there is sufficient evidence to charge him". But she did not confirm the anonymous claim that her fellow prosecutor, Fernando Canana, had issued an arrest warrant, which was then suspended because of the intervention of Nyimpine's parents. She admitted, however, that the former president and his wife, Marcelina, had spoken to her in her office.

Chissano Jr is known to be in poor health, a factor which could be important in deciding whether the should await any possible trial at home, rather than in jail.

The investigations into Nyimpine Chissano's possible connection with the Cardoso murder began in September 2002, when a witness, Opa Manganhela, interviewed by judge Augusto Paulino mentioned discussions in the Maputo top security prison with Momade Assif Abdul Satar ("Nini"), one of the businessmen charged with the murder.

Manganhela, who was serving a sentence for illegal possession of firearms, said he had run errands for Satar, and even cleaned his cell for him. In conversations, Opa recalled, Satar claimed he had merely acted as a go-between in the Cardoso murder, and that the person who had really ordered the killing was Nyimpine Chissano.

It was this claim that sparked off an investigation into Chissano Jr, and the opening of a second case file on the murder in which the President's son was one of the suspects.

In December 2002, at the trial of the six people accused of the murder, Nini Satar admitted paying Anibal dos Santos Junior ("Anibalzinho"), the man who led the death squad that gunned down Cardoso, a total equivalent to 46,000 US dollars - but claimed he had done so at the request of Nyimpine Chissano.

The money, said Satar, was really a loan to Nyimpine, and he did not question the peculiar arrangement whereby he was to turn over the money, not to Nyimpine himself, but to Anibalzinho.

Satar said Chissano had given guarantees of repayment in the form of post-dated cheques, and he was able to present the court with seven of these, all signed by Nyimpine Chissano, and all drawn on an account of his company, the car hire firm, Expresso Tours. The cheques fell due between 24 October 2000 and 31 January 2001 - i.e. immediately before and after the murder.

When called to give evidence, Chissano indignantly denied having anything to do with the murder, or any business dealings with Nini Satar. He claimed that Expresso Tours had asked for a loan from his friend, the businesswoman Candida Cossa, and not from Satar. But he was quite unable to explain how the cheques ended up in Satar's hands.

Candida Cossa herself confirmed a string of business deals between Expresso Tours and Satar. After the trial, she told prosecutors she had come under pressure from Nyimpine to agree with his story that the seven cheques presented by Satar, were security on a loan that she had offered Expresso Tours - but in reality, she had never seen them before.

Nyimpine made no secret of his dislike of Cardoso's journalism. When judge Paulino asked if he had ever felt offended by Cardoso's articles, he claimed that his whole family was "affected" by articles in Cardoso's paper "Metical" detailing various business affairs of himself and his parents. But he added that he harboured no vengeful feelings.

The key question now is: have the prosecutors unearthed any further evidence linking Chissano to the murder ? For while the seven cheques certainly indicate a business relationship with Satar, they are hardly proof of an assassination, even if the dates are suggestive.

Chissano's obvious defence is that Satar, his brother Ayob, and their associate Vicente Ramaya, have dragged Nyimpine's name into the affair, in order to obscure their own guilt. After all, Ramaya and the Satars did have an obvious motive for wanting Cardoso dead - he had been campaigning vigorously to have the country's largest bank fraud, which took place in Ramaya's branch of the Commercial Bank of Mozambique (BCM), and of which the main beneficiaries were the Abdul Satar family, come to trial.

So unless the prosecutors can produce something that was not said at the first trial, the murder charge is unlikely to go anywhere. The mere fact that the charge sheet has gone to court does not guarantee a trial - the judge could decide there was insufficient evidence, and throw the case out.

It may be more difficult to throw out charges of economic crimes. The first trial provided a blizzard of claims about murky dealings involving Expresso Tours, and the Satar's foreign exchange bureau, Unicambios (now closed down by order of the Finance Ministry). If any of this turns out to be true, it may open the door for charges of fraud, money-laundering and illegal dealings in foreign currency.

Clearly the lawyers for the Satars and Ramaya intend to argue that the wrong men were sentenced in the first trial, and that if Nyimpine was involved, then their clients are innocent.

This argument cuts no ice with the Cardoso family lawyer, Lucinda Cruz. In her summing up at the first trial, she declared she had no doubt that the BCM fraud was the main motive for the murder, and that the Satars and Ramaya were guilty as charged.

But Cruz also stressed that the Cardoso family did not rule out other motives and other people who may have ordered the killing. "For the assassination of a person such as Carlos Cardoso, there need not be just one motive", she stressed.

This is a condensed version of the AIM daily news service - for details contact

email: Mozambique News Agency

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