The Maputo City Court on Thursday sentenced Mozambique’s former Labour Minister, Helena Taipo, to 16 years imprisonment for embezzlement and illicit participation in business.
Three of her accomplices received the same sentence. They are Anastacia Zitha, former head of the Directorate of Migrant Labour (DTM) in the Labour Ministry, Jose Monjane, head of the finance department in the DTM, and Pedro Taimo, head of the Miner’s Office in the DTM.
Five others were sentenced to 12 years for embezzlement, while two of the 11 accused were acquitted.
The prosecution alleged, and judge Evandra Uamusse agreed, that Taipo and her accomplices had stolen 113 million meticais (1.8 million US dollars, at the current exchange rate) from the DTM.
The prosecution case was that the Labour Ministry and DTM officials involved, and the managers of the private companies with whom the DTM signed fraudulent contracts, formed a group with a plan to appropriate public funds, as well as to harm the former miners and their dependents, by seizing their funds for their own benefit.
The prosecution argued successfully that the accused had failed to comply with the procedures for withdrawing money from the DTM accounts, had transferred money to personal accounts, and had issued fraudulent invoices and receipt.
To justify the withdrawals of money, they produced documentation for purchases and events that had never happened.
The prosecution also stated it was proven, during the two months long trial, that the authorizations of payments made by Helena Taipo opened space for the embezzlement of funds in the DTM, through a scheme in which all the defendants implicated took part.
Taipo’s lawyer claimed that the former minister, “acted within her powers, authorizing payments to enable the projects previously programmed in the 2013 Economic and Social Plan”.
The defence also said that the construction of a house in favor of Taipo and her daughter, in the Muhaivire neighbourhood, in Nampula province, costing five million meticais paid by the DTM, was not proven in court.
This was the only significant point where the judge agreed with the defence. Uamusse accepted that the location of this house and its ownership had not been proven. But it was only one of many accusations against Taipo, most of which the judge accepted as true.
The lawyers for Anastácia Zitha, José Monjane and Pedro Taimo all claimed that their clients acted within their powers and duties. They did, however, admit that they made some “administrative mistakes”, without intending to harm the State and much less the miners to whom they provided services.
This did not impress Uamusse who imposed the maximum penalty for embezzlement on the top four defendants. She said she had done so because she could detect no sign of repentance. Instead, what the court had heard were claims such as “I did nothing” or “What I did was for the good of the institution”.
Uamusse believed long sentences were appropriate, “because we must prevent any repetition of such acts”.
She believed the defendants had acted out of simple greed – to obtain money with no more effort than that needed to sign a cheque.
As part of the sentence, Taipo and her accomplices must repay the 113 million meticais stolen from the DTM.
Taipo was Minister of Labour throughout the ten years that President Armando Guebuza was in office. Under the current President, Filipe Nyusi, she was governor of the central province of Sofala, and then demoted to ambassador to Angola. She was sacked from her ambassadorial position when it became known that she was under investigation for corruption.
Subsequently Taipo has publicly attacked Nyusi, claiming that she is one of the President’s “targets”, an allegation for which she offered no evidence.
The defence now has 20 days to appeal against the court’s verdict and sentence.
- Source: AIM