The Maputo City Court on Thursday again postponed delivering its verdict on the "Embraer bribe" case to September 13, following some technical constraints which hampered the printout of the court judgment.
The presiding judge, Fernando Macamo, called into his office a group of three journalists from print, radio and television media, to inform them of the technical problems faced by the court. He assured them that the new adjournment, after a similar move on 22 July, had been agreed with the lawyers of the accused.
"I would like to sincerely apologise for the inconvenience caused by a technical problem faced by the printing capacity that hampered the printout of the court ruling, which should have been delivered today", said Macamo. He added that the earlier postponement was due to his own health problems, but he has now fully recovered.
The case concerns a bribe of 800,000 US dollars paid by the Brazilian aircraft manufacturing company, in order to ensure that Mozambique Airlines (LAM) would buy two Embraer aircraft. Those accused of taking the bribe are former transport minister Paulo Zucula, the former chairperson of LAM, Jose Viegas, and the former Mozambican manager of the South African petrochemical company Sasol, Mateus Zimba.
The prosecution said the accused had used the LAM purchase of Embraer aircraft in order to enrich themselves, with Zimba, who had no prior connection with LAM or with civil aviation, operating as a middlemen, setting up a shell company "Xihivele" registered in Sao Tome and Principe, through which the bribe was channeled.
Embraer has already admitted to paying bribes in several countries, including Mozambique. The bribes came to light thanks to investigations by Brazilian and United States prosecutors into Embraer's business practices. Embraer confessed to paying bribes and reached a settlement with the US and Brazilian authorities involved paying total fines of around 225 million US dollars, and giving full details of the bribes.
From the documents of the Brazilian Federal Prosecutor's Office, we know that it was Viegas who negotiated the size of the Mozambican bribe. He insisted that the deal would not go ahead without a bribe.
Embraer was at first reluctant to "offer" more than 80,000 dollars. But Viegas allegedly said he had received reactions from unnamed other people who regarded the Embraer offer "as an insult and to some extent it would have been less offensive to offer nothing at all". He thought a million dollars would be acceptable, but eventually settled on 800,000.
When Viegas was told that Embraer did not have that sort of money to pay for what would be passed off as "consultancy services", he suggested simply increasing the price of the aircraft. Instead of the original price of 32 million US dollars, each aircraft would now cost 32.69 million dollars. This was the price in the sales agreement between Embraer and LAM signed on 13 September 2008. Viegas was thus accused of betraying his trust as LAM chairperson by artificially inflating the price of aircraft purchased by the company.
Embraer paid the bribe, disguised as "sales commissions", in two instalments of 400,000 dollars each to a Xihevele account in Portugal.
On 22 April 2009, Embraer signed a "commercial representation agreement" with Xihevele. The stated purpose of this company was to promote the sale of aircraft to LAM, even though LAM had already signed the purchase agreement. Xihevele had not existed during the negotiations between LAM and Embraer.
Copyright Agencia de Informacao de Mocambique. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com)., source News Service English