MAPUTO, The Mozambican Attorney-General’s Office (PGR) says the authorities of three countries — Brazil, Portugal and Sao Tome and Principe — have responded to its requests for information about the payment of an 800,000 US dollar bribe by the Brazilian aircraft manufacturer, Embraer, to ensure that Mozambique Airlines (LAM) purchased two LAM aircraft in 2009.

A source at the PGR was quoted in the Maputo daily, Noticias, as saying that the PGR was still awaiting information from the United States, Britain and France. The authorities in those three countries have said they are working on the PGR requests, and compiling all data regarded as useful.

The PGR has activated the mechanisms for legal co-operation that it has with these countries. It’s a long path, but we’re making advances,” the source said. We are satisfied, because the countries from which we requested information are co-operating. We are waiting for the others to do so shortly.”

Last year, Embraer admitted to paying bribes, not only in Mozambique, but also in India, Saudi Arabia, and the Dominican Republic. The Brazilian and US judicial authorities have fined Embraer a total of 225 million USD.

According to the documents from the Brazilian Federal Prosecutor’s office, the bribe was demanded by the then chairperson of the LAM board, Jose Viegas, and Mateus Zimba, then the Mozambique representative of the South African petrochemical company Sasol, was the intermediary who set up a shell company, named Xihevele and registered in Sao Tome, which handled the 800,000 USD bribe.

Xihevele sent Embraer two invoices for 400,000 dollars each, and the money was paid into the Xihevele account in Portugal. From Embraer’s viewpoint the bribe appeared successful, since it resulted in LAM acquiring two Embraer-190 planes, for 32 million USD each.

Because Embraer found it difficult simply to slip the money out of its own accounts, it simply added the bribe to the amount LAM was charged for the two planes. Hence this act of corruption resulted in an inflated invoice.

The PGR is prosecuting Viegas, Zimba and a third suspect, believed to be former transport minister Paulo Zucula, who denies any wrongdoing. None of the three suspects has been detained.