The trial before the Maputo City Court of six men accused of the 1999 attempted murder of lawyer Albano Silva took an unexpected turn Monday when a former senior police officer was accused of offering journalists a huge bribe to stifle reporting on the murder of investigative reporter Carlos Cardoso.
The assassination of Cardoso in November 2000 is inextricably linked to the attempt on Silva’s life a year earlier. Silva was the lawyer for the country’s largest bank, the BCM, and was attempting to bring to trial those who had defrauded the bank of the equivalent of US$ 14 million at the time of its privatisation in 1996.
Those charged with the fraud included Vicente Ramaya, manager of the BCM branch where it occurred, and several members of the Abdul Satar family, who opened accounts at Ramaya’s branch with the sole purpose of syphoning out money fraudulently.
The prosecution alleged that Momad Assife Abdul Satar (“Nini”) and his brother Ayob Abdul Satar ordered the assassination of Silva. When it failed, they supposedly plotted a second attempt, but switched their attention to Cardoso who had been running a vigorous campaign in his paper “Metical”, seeking to bring the fraudsters to justice and purge the Attorney-General’s office of the prosecutors who were protecting them.
The man eventually put in charge of investigating the Cardoso murder was Antonio Frangoulis, then the director of the Maputo branch of the Criminal Investigation Police (PIC), and now a parliamentary deputy for the ruling Frelimo Party.
His investigations led to the reopening of the dossier on the attempted murder of Silva, which his predecessors had allowed to gather dust for more than a year.
But on Monday, the lawyer representing Silva, Antonio Vasconcelos Porto, queried the integrity of Frangoulis and suggested that in reality he had not been interested in a successful outcome to the Cardoso case.
Frangoulis rejected the claim, retorting that it was because of his persistence in following all leads in the Cardoso case that he lost his job.
Frangoulis was dismissed in June 2002 (five months before the start of the Cardo so murder trial) and the Ministry of Interior told him to go and study English in South Africa. He is convinced that this was because people in senior positions were uncomfortable about his investigations.
“If I had suggested stifling the Cardoso case, then I would have been promoted, not sacked”, he told the court.
Vasconcelos did not buy this, and asked Frangoulis if he had offered a bribe to two journalists, Augusto de Carvalho and Salomao Antonio (both of whom worked on the Sunday paper “Domingo”), to suffocate press coverage of the case.
Allegedly, Frangoulis had offered them US$ 400,000, with promises of more to come.
This is the first time such an allegation had been made in public. Frangoulis laughed it off, saying that he had never heard the claim before.
Far from him offering a bribe, it had been Nini Satar who in 2002 had offered him US$ 400,000. “I told him his money meant nothing to me”, said Frangoulis.
Vasconcelos asked the presiding judge, Dimas Marroa, to call the two journalists as witnesses, a request Marroa has not yet ruled on. “Let them come!” declared Frangoulis. “I have no problems. My hands are clean”.
He said that during the final stages of his investigations, both Nini Satar and Anibal dos Santos Junior (“Anibalzinho”), the man who led the death squad that murdered Cardoso, tried to implicate Nyimpine Chissano, the oldest son of the then President, Joaquim Chissano, in the crime.
This was over a year after the two had been arrested, during which time they had not mentioned Nyimpine’s name.
Anibalzinho told Frangoulis that he repented of his part in the killing, and claimed “there are people inside this prison who ought to be outside, and people outside who ought to be inside”.
Giving testimony at this trial, Anibalzinho said that Frangoulis was so convinced by his story that he issued a warrant for the arrest of Nyimpine Chissano – but Frangoulis categorically denied this tale. Panapress .