A firm at the centre of a $2-billion loan scandal that plunged Mozambique into its worst financial crisis says it donated to President Filipe Nyusi’s 2014 election bid, according to documents it filed at a British court.
The company said Nyusi, who had been defence minister when the controversial deal was forged, had requested donations for his campaign for the presidency.
The donations were not kickbacks or illegal, the papers said.
Mozambique’s ruling party denied that Nyusi was guilty of any wrongdoing.
The papers, seen by AFP, have been filed at the High Court in London ahead of an upcoming case brought by the Maputo government.
The firm at the heart of the scandal is an Abu Dhabi-based shipbuilding company, Privinvest, owned by French-Lebanese billionaire Iskandar Safa.
It signed contracts with Mozambican state companies to finance a tuna-fishing fleet and a coastal surveillance project.
To finance the deal, the government signed secret loans in 2013 and 2014 — before Nyusi won the elections — and a storm erupted when the clandestine debt became public.
Mozambique, which relies on foreign aid and is one of the world’s poorest countries, found itself cut off by donors, and was plunged into its deepest financial crisis.
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The United States has alleged that at least $200 million of the loans was spent on bribes to politicians and top officials.
Several lawsuits related to corruption cases have been lodged in the US, Switzerland, Britain, South Africa and in Mozambique.
The London case, brought by the Mozambican government against 12 defendants, including Privinvest and Safa, is set to be heard on February 17.
Nyusi “requested campaign contributions,” according to the court papers.
He was no longer defence minister when he allegedly made this request, and was campaigning for the presidency in a private capacity.
It is illegal under Mozambican laws for officials to solicit political funding from private donors.
“The payments allegedly made by Privinvest to or for the benefit of various Mozambican officials were not bribes… (but) campaign contributions,” according to the papers.
“Privinvest made further payments…, including a payment on 10 April 2014… of US$1m,” they say.
“Privinvest understands that this payment was, in whole or in part, for the benefit of President Nyusi.”
Mozambique’s ruling party, Frelimo, denied any wrongdoing.
“President Nyusi has no connection with any secret debts and Frelimo has nothing to do with secret debts,” party spokesman Caifadine Manasse told AFP.
In testimony in a New York court in 2019, Jean Boustani, an employee of Privinvest, also alleged the company had helped to funded Nyusi’s 2014 election campaign.
Nyusi won the elections that year and was re-elected in 2019 by a landslide.
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