Mohamed Bachir Suleman, a rich Mozambican businessman with strong links to the country’s ruling party, is beginning to feel the consequences of being on the US Treasury Department’s list of drug barons, the so-called Kingpin Act.
Following US President Barack Obama’s designation of Suleman as a “large-scale drug trafficker in Mozambique” on June 1, three banks have closed their branches in Suleman’s MBS Shopping Centre in downtown Maputo.
In a press release, the US Treasury described Suleman’s businesses as “specially designated narcotics traffickers … owned or controlled by [Mohamed Bachir] Suleman”. Under US law, any assets the businesses have are frozen and US citizens are barred from dealing with those individuals.
While none of the banks involved — including the London-based Barclays Bank and Mozambique’s two largest banks, Millenium Bim and BCI — have distanced themselves from Suleman, their closures come less a month after the American accusations against Suleman.
ATMs in the MBS Shopping Centre have also been closed making shopping harder for the centre’s clients. Suleman has also been asked to remove his youngest son from the American School in Maputo.
Suleman, a holder of five Mozambican passports with various spellings of his name, has rejected the accusations and says he is innocent.
Henrik Lomholt Rasmussen is information officer for the Danish Association for International Cooperation ActionAid Mozambique.