On Monday, the son of Mozambique’s ex-president, Armando Guebuza, denied taking bribes to facilitate a $2 billion secret government loan that plunged the country into a financial crisis. Ndambi Guebuza, Guebuza’s eldest son, is one of 19 high-profile defendants on trial in Maputo’s high-security prison for alleged ties to a 2013 corruption case known as the “hidden debt” scandal.
He is accused of accepting $33 million from Privinvest, an international shipbuilding company, to persuade his father, who was president at the time, to approve bribe-paying maritime projects. Three public companies obtained $2 billion in state-guaranteed loans from international banks in 2013 and 2014 to purchase a tuna-fishing fleet and surveillance ships from Privinvest.
An independent audit later discovered that $500 million of the loans remained unaccounted for, despite the fact that they were kept hidden from parliament. Privinvest has previously stated that it is not guilty of any wrongdoing. On Monday, one week after the 43-day trial began, Ndambi, dressed in a black coat over his orange prison uniform, was the third suspect to testify.
“I have never received money from Privinvest,” he claimed to the judges, claiming he was unaware of emails presented in court as proof of his involvement. During a 2012 trip to Privinvest shipyards in Germany and Abu Dhabi, Ndambi denied meeting Antonio Carlos do Rosario, a former director of Mozambique’s intelligence unit and the head of the three state-owned groups.
“I went to a petrochemical company to hear about business opportunities,” he explained. His 78-year-old father wore a grey suit and blue shirt to the hearing, occasionally taking notes. In the coming days, he will be heard as a declarant. The loan scandal broke in 2016, prompting financial support from donors such as the International Monetary Fund to be withdrawn, resulting in a sovereign debt default and a currency collapse. Ndambi was apprehended in February of this year.