Maputo, 17 Dec (AIM) - Maputo loan shark Momade Assife Abdul Satar ("Nini"), one of those accused of ordering the murder of Mozambique's top investigative journalist Carlos Cardoso, believed that Nyimpine Chissano, oldest son of President Joaquim Chissano, would ensure that the case never came to court, according to a prosecution witness giving evidence at the murder trial on Tuesday.
This witness, Marcial Muthemba, is a convicted car thief who came to know Satar and the five other men charged with the murder inside the Maputo top security prison in 2001. Satar recruited Muthemba as an errand boy, persuading him to bring him letters and mobile phones (at a time when Satar was supposed to be incommunicado).
Muthemba heard several highly incriminating conversations among the accused, and revealed their content to the then director of the Maputo branch of the Criminal Investigation Police (PIC), Antonio Frangoulis.
When he realised this had happened, Nini Satar worked successfully on persuading Muthemba to change his statement. "He threatened me in the name of Nyimpine Chissano", Muthemba told the court.
By late 2001, Muthemba had been moved to the civil prison near the city centre. This was no problem for Satar: through the smuggled mobile phones "I was always in phone contact with Nini", said Muthemba.
Facing death threats from Satar, Muthemba decided to tell the prison authorities. But as he started to speak to a friendly police officer, a member of the Casa Militar (Presidential Guard) appeared "and insisted on listening - so I shut up. That's what made me change my statement".
It has been repeatedly claimed in this trial that Satar has corrupted those members of the Casa Militar guarding the top security prison, and has used them as go-betweens. Other prisoners routinely consider the Casa Militar as working, not for the Mozambican state, but for Nini Satar.
Muthemba said Satar used both stick and carrot - threatening and bribing him at the same time. He said Satar had paid him 100 million meticais (about $4,200) to change his statement, and this money was sent to relatives, whom Muthemba declined to name.
The result was that in July 2002, Muthemba changed his story, exonerated Satar, and claimed that his initial statement was falsified by Frangoulis and by other enemies of Satar, including the Italian owner of the Kaya-Kwanga hotel, Humberto Sartori. He claimed that Frangoulis had paid him $5,000 to sign this supposedly false statement.
Muthemba said Satar sent him a photograph of Sartori so that he could recognise him in court, if necessary. (Kaya-Kwanga has close police links, and Frangoulis admits to using it as a convenient place for interviewing suspects.) Muthemba has now reverted to his original statement. He claimed that "everything I told Frangoulis was the truth. I said Frangoulis paid me $5,000 because that's what Nini told me to say".
In particular, he said he had discovered that the first person Satar asked to murder Cardoso was a man named Rohit Kumar.
"Kumar rejected the job because the money offered was not enough", said Muthemba. "Nini spoke of offering him $150,000, but Kumar wanted more".
He added that Satar also had a hit list of people he wanted eliminated. This list included Frangoulis, prominent lawyer Albano Silva, "somebody in the bank whose name I don't know, and somebody in the foreign exchange business with whom he was in dispute".
The planned assassination of the unnamed banker was something that Carlitos Rashid, the man who fired the shots that killed Cardoso, discussed in prison with Muthemba. "Rashid didn't tell me who this person in the bank was, but he said he was to be executed", said Muthemba.
Rashid was to be freed from prison to commit the murder, and payment for this killing was to be made, not by Satar, but by his co-accused, former bank manager Vicente Ramaya. Muthemba said this discussion took place before the assassination of the interim chairman of the Austral Bank, Antonio Siba-Siba Macuacua (on 11 August 2001), but he could not confirm that Siba-Siba was the target.
Muthemba said Satar repeatedly mentioned Nyimpine Chissano, and told him that the president's son was one of those who ordered Cardoso's death. Satar at first believed he was protected by Nyimpine, "and he decided to mention Nyimpine's name in court because Nyimpine broke his promise that the case would never come to trial".
But Muthemba was also certain that when Rashid, and a second member of the death squad, Manuel Fernandes ("Escurinho"), mentioned Nyimpine in court, they had been coached to do so by Satar. "Rashid never met and doesn't know Nyimpine", he said "He and Escurinho didn't know about Nyimpine's involvement".
Muthemba said he had known in advance that Anibal dos Santos Junior ("Anibalzinho"), the man who recruited the death squad, would escape from prison.
"I knew Nini was preparing the escape and I tried to warn the prison authorities", he said. Muthemba added that he had even sent a letter to the court warning of the planned escape: it is not clear whether this was ever received.
Asked why Satar prepared the escape of somebody else, but did not flee the prison himself, Muthemba replied "He said he couldn't run away, because he had so much business here".
Maputo, 17 Dec (AIM) - One of the accused in the Carlos Cardoso murder trial, former bank manager Vicente Ramaya, has denied ever discussing plans to murder a senior banker.
On Tuesday, a prosecution witness, Marcial Muthemba, said that Carlitos Rashid, the man who fired the shots that killed Cardoso, had told him in the top security prison in 2001 that Ramaya was prepared to pay for the assassination of the banker, whose name Muthemba did not know.
When his lawyer, Abdul Gani, insisted that he respond to this accusation, Ramaya said he had never discussed such a matter with Rashid. "I didn't know these people (Rashid and the other members of the death squad) outside the prison, and I was distrustful of them inside", he declared.
Ramaya claimed Muthemba had come to him in the prison in July 2001 and told him "I know that, of the six people accused, you're one of the people who had nothing to do with the murder".
He had talked with the other accused, had taped the conversations, and now offered to sell the tape to Ramaya for 50 million meticais (about $2,100 at the current exchange rate). Ramaya said he was willing to pay, but wanted to hear the tape first. He claimed that Muthemba was just bluffing. "When the moment of truth came, he had no cassette", said Ramaya.
Muthemba had a very different version. He told the court he had indeed spoken to Ramaya about his conversations with the other accused. In particular he told Ramaya, "Carlitos says he has someone to kill outside, somebody from the bank, and you're paying for it".
"Ramaya asked if I had it on tape, and I said I didn't. I didn't ask for any money", added Muthemba.
Rashid declared that all of Muthemba's testimony "is lies".
He claimed that Muthemba had asked him to negotiate with Momade Abdul Assife Satar ("Nini"), another of those accused of ordering the murder. Muthemba, according to Rashid, wanted to find out who would pay more for his testimony - the police or Satar. Muthemba denied this, and said it was clear that Rashid "is being paid by Nini".
Maputo, 17 Dec (AIM) - Every morning, when members of the public attend the Carlos Cardoso murder trial, held in a giant tent pitched on the football field of the Maputo top security prison, police carefully frisk us two, or sometimes three, times.
Anyone carrying a mobile phone is asked to leave it outside or at the prison reception desk. Posters are up in the grounds warning that the entry of mobile phones into the prison is strictly forbidden. The only exception made is for the judges and the lawyers.
Yet those charged with the murder of Carlos Cardoso are still able, apparently without any serious difficulty, to obtain mobile phones, and are still using them for entirely illicit activities.
On Tuesday, the prosecuting attorney, Mourao Baluce, presented to the court yet another mobile phone, a phone battery, and a portable television set, which had been seized from the cell of money-lender Momade Assife Abdul Satar ("Nini") on Monday night. This is the third time that Baluce has brought phones seized from the accused into the court room. When judge Augusto Paulino asked if the phone belonged to him, Satar said calmly "At 18.15 last night another prisoner gave me the phone through the cell window. At about 20.00 a friend rang me up with information about the latest witnesses".
Satar spoke as if it was entirely normal for people accused of murder to have access to modern means of communication and to use them to spy on prosecution witnesses.
Months ago Satar publicly boasted that he was running a network of private
detectives from his prison cell. No doubt this network is still in existence,
posing a threat to witnesses, and interfering in the course of justice.
Mozambique News Agency
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