Mozambique: LAM Embezzlement Case Comes to Court

Maputo — The Maputo City Court on Monday began the trial of the former Chairperson of the Executive Commission of Mozambique Airlines (LAM), Antonio Pinto, and two others on charges of embezzling 50 million meticais (about 770,000 US dollars, at current exchange rates) from LAM.

At the heart of the prosecution case are the contracts between LAM and the company Executive Mozambique Ld, dating from November 2016 and June 2017, under which the company was to provide audio-visual materials, notably the in-flight magazine “Indico”, to improve LAM”s image.

According to the prosecution, LAM paid Executive Mozambique a total of 1.17 million meticais between November 2016 and June 2017. From that month, and up until March 2019, LAM pad the company 2.34 million meticais a month. The contracts, which supposedly damaged the interests of LAM, were signed by Pinto and by two Executive Mozambique representatives, Nuno Fernandes and Sheila Mia Temporario.

Temporario is now in the dock alongside Pinto and the then LAM Financial Director, Helder Fumo.

The prosecution says that some of the materials promised by Executive Mozambique were never delivered. Prosecutors also found it strange that LAM should hire an outside company for work which should have been done by LAM’s own marketing department. They believe that the real purpose of the contracts was simply to extract money from LAM’s coffers.

The contracts were signed “without taking into account the full interests of LAM, and were effected with other interests alien to the company”, the prosecuting attorney told the court.

Giving evidence, Pinto said that, when he took office in 2016, he found that LAM had a very poor image, so he resorted to Executive Mozambique to improve matters.

He wanted to improve the company’s image, but claimed he ran into opposition from other members of the board, notably the LAM commercial director, “who wanted, at the same time, to be the LAM delegate in South Africa, and I didn’t allow that”.

Pinto said he never signed any cheques, and gave no direct orders for making payments to Executive Mozambique. He also denied that he was responsible for assessing the work that Executive did for LAM.

To some of the questions asked by the judge, Rui Duane, Pinto could only answer “I don’t remember”.

Fumo said he had arrived at LAM at the same time as Pinto, and found the airline in a state of near bankruptcy. So he agreed with Pinto on the need for publicity to improve the company’s image. He told the court that the contract and the payment procedures between LAM and Executive Mozambique were clear, and at the time LAM had the money to make the payments. Temporario agreed with him, but complained that, under the second contract, LAM only paid for eight months instead of the 12 agreed.

Like Pinto, Fumo also claimed that he had made no payments to Executive Mozambique.

This is the second case involving LAM that is being heard by the City Court. The other concerns a bribe of 800,000 dollars allegedly paid by the Brazilian aircraft manufacturer Embraer in 2009 to the then chairperson of LAM, Jose Viegas, and the then Transport Minister, Paulo Zucula. The two cases are completely separate.

Source: Agencia de Informacao de Mocambique