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17 Dec 2003 09:05
Gunmen have shot dead the director of Mozambique’s maximum security prison, where a major fraud trial got under way last week in the country’s capital Maputo, the Interior Ministry announced on Tuesday.
Ministry spokesperson Nataniel Macamo said that Armando Ussufo was gunned down on Monday evening in a suburb of the capital by unknown criminals who then stole his car.
“He was murdered at around 7pm (1700 GMT) by unknown assailants,” he said.
“We are searching for the attackers and we are investigating the motive for the crime.”
Macamo said he believed the crime had nothing to do with car theft, as Ussufo’s vehicle was not in the group generally preferred by thieves, who do not usually kill their victims in the Mozambican capital.
Macamo said the former prison boss could have been strangled before he was shot in the head.
The attack on Ussufo took place just days after the start of the trial of more than 15 people accused of being involved in a $14-million fraud case at Banco Comercial de Mocambique (BCM) in 1996.
The trial began on Friday morning in the maximum security jail.
Among the accused in the BCM case are three convicts serving sentences of between 23 and 24 years for ordering the late 2000 assassination of Mozambican journalist Carlos Cardoso as he investigated the fraud at the bank.
Cardoso had exerted pressure on the Mozambican authorities to rapidly identify the fraud culprits and bring them to justice.
He also investigated illegal trade activities, some of which were used to cover drugs trafficking in Mozambique.
The murdered jail boss was a controversial figure during the trial in mid-2003 of seven policemen, accused of releasing another of Cardoso’s assassins, Anibal Antonio dos Santos.
Testifying in court, Ussufo openly held the seven policemen, who included a high-ranking officer, responsible for dos Santos’ escape.
The court acquitted all the seven for lack of sufficient evidence.
Ussufo was found to have altered the security system in the jail, a move that could have facilitated the escape of dos Santos and other criminals.
Dos Santos was sentenced in absentia to 28 years. He returned to Mozambique from his hiding in South Africa on the day his sentenced was handed down.
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