MAPUTO. — Mozambique President Filipe Nyusi has sacked the country’s deputy finance minister, who has been implicated in a widening scandal over alleged fraudulent government loans totalling $2 billion.
A statement from the presidency on Wednesday did not give a reason for the removal of Isaltina Lucas.
She was the national treasury director when she signed guarantees in 2013 and 2014 for the loans to three state-owned security companies.
An independent audit has found that US$500m of the loans, which were deliberately hidden from the country’s parliament as well as international donors, was diverted and remains unaccounted for.
When the hidden debt was revealed, Mozambique – which relies on donor was plunged into the worst financial crisis in its history.
The US alleges that at least US$200m was spent on bribes and kickbacks, including US$12m for former finance minister Manuel Chang, who also signed off on the debt guarantees.
Chang was arrested in South Africa in December on a US extradition request for his alleged involvement in the loans.
The US has alleged that Chang received the US$12m to agree to sign loan deals for supposed financing for a tuna-fishing fleet and a maritime surveillance project.
Chang is facing extradition requests from both US and Mozambican authorities on suspicion of financial misconduct. Court hearings resume in South Africa on February 26.
Seven suspects including Mozambicans and ex-Credit Suisse bankers are accused by the US of fraud, conspiracy to financial security fraud, conspiracy to launder money.
Meanwhile, Zambian President Edgar Lungu said on Thursday that he will only fire his minister arrested over corruption charges if the court finds him guilty.
On Tuesday, the Anti-Cprruption Commission (ACC) arrested Zambian Housing and Infrastructure Develpment Minister Ronald Chitotela, and charged him with two counts of concealing property believed to be proceeds of crime.
Stakeholders have called on President Lungu to fire the minister in order to pave the way for smooth investigations and prosecution.
But President Lungu said he will not succumb to pressure and fire his minister but will allow him to go through the due process of the law and prove his innocence.
The Zambian leader told reporters that as far as he was concerned, the minister was still innocent until found guilty by the courts.
He also said that he will not interfere in the work of investigation and security wings, adding that the agencies were free to arrest whoever they suspect of being corrupt.
President Lungu said it was not his mandate to direct investigative wings on who to arrest but promised to provide resources to the agencies so that they conduct their work without any hindrances.
He expressed concern that some people were politicising the fight against corruption. — AFP/Xinhua/ HR