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13 Dec 2002 12:00
At the heart of the trial of six men charged with murdering Mozambican investigative journalist Carlos Cardoso are seven cheques signed by businessman Nyimpine Chissano, the eldest son of President Joaquim Chissano.
The cheques were submitted as evidence by one of the accused, Maputo money lender Momade Assife Abdul Satar. His defence is that he paid for Cardosoâ€™s murder — but did not know what he was doing.
Abdul Satar claims Nyimpine Chissano approached him for a loan of 1,2-billion metical: but that Chissano wanted the money given to Anibal dos Santos Junior (“Anibalzinho”).
Asking no questions about this odd arrangement, Abdul Satar says he did as requested.
Chissano, he says, was to repay the loan with a series of postdated cheques.
Abdul Satar said that, after he talked to Anibalzinho when they were both arrested, he realised that the money was used to pay for Cardosoâ€™s murder. Anibalzinho, the man charged with organising the death squad and driving the getaway car, cannot confirm or deny the allegation. He escaped from prison on September 1 and is being tried in absentia.
When called to the witness stand Chissano vigorously denied Abdul Satarâ€™s story. He admitted that the cheques — drawn on an account of his travel agency and car hire company, Expresso Tours — are genuine, but he said he issued them as security for a loan granted, not by Abdul Satar, but by Candida Cossa, a former customs official-turned-businesswoman.
Chissano said in 2000 Expresso Tours had a cash-flow problem and he needed a short-term loan to pay debts to unspecified suppliers. He asked Cossa to help out.
Chissano said he did not know how the postdated cheques had come into Abdul Satarâ€™s possession.
When Cossa was called to testify, a third version emerged. She said in late 1999 while she and Chissano were in South Africa, they learned that the company Budget Rent-a-Car was threatening to take Chissano to court because of a debt owed by Expresso Tours. The debt related to two vehicles hired from Budget that had been damaged.
Cossa said Budget demanded R750Â 000 and Chissano was desperate for a loan, since he did not want his name appearing in the South African press.
She was able immediately to provide R250Â 000 to stave off Budget and when they returned to Maputo, she provided Expresso Tours with a further $30 000.
This was not the only good turn Cossa did for Chissano. She used her influence on a Durban car dealer acquaintance, Omar Hussein, to allow Chissano, his brother Nâ€™naite, and his business associate Apolinario Pateguana (a shareholder in the recently established Mozambican subsidiary of Vodacom), to buy three Mercedes-Benz saloons on easy terms (at a total cost, she claimed, of about R800 000).
But the Chissano brothers did not keep up the payments and Hussein demanded his money. The solution was to request a loan from Abdul Satar — and the security for the loan was postdated Expresso tours cheques, signed by Chissano.
Cossa claimed the same method was to be used to pay for the loan she had made to Chissano to extricate him from his difficulty with Budget. Abdul Satar would pay her and Chissano would pay Abdul Satar using postdated cheques as collateral.
Chissano cannot take much comfort from Cossaâ€™s testimony, for while he had denied any business relationship with Abdul Satar, she spoke of repeated dealings between Abdul Satar and Expresso Tours.
Even if it can be shown that Chissano had nothing to do with Cardosoâ€™s murder, the links with Abdul Satar raise awkward questions. Abdul Satar is a notorious loan shark and is also one of those accused of stealing R140-million from the countryâ€™s largest bank, the BanÃ§o Central MoÃ§ambique, on the eve of its privatisation.
Since it began last month the trial has seen some dramatic moments — most notably a confrontation between Abdul Satar and Chissano.
Abdul Satar insisted that he had met “on several occasions” with Chissano at various venues. Chissano retorted: “I met with this individual once at Unicambios. None of these other meetings took place.”
Satar claimed that, in addition to the 1,2-billion metical loan, he had arranged obscure money transfers for Chissano. Again Chissano flatly denied the claim.
The two started calling each other liars, leading the presiding Judge, Augusto Paulino, to intervene and declare: “The court will decide whether itâ€™s a lie or the truth.”
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