[JURIST] Former Mozambican Transportation Minister Antonio Munguambe was sentenced to twenty years in prison on Saturday for his involvement in the embezzlement of millions of dollars from a publicly owned company. The trial was the largest corruption proceeding brought in Mozambique since the country achieved independence from Portugal in 1975. Judge Dimas Marroa of Maputo City Court said that he was making an example of the defendants in sentencing [AP report] Munguambe along with four others for the theft of USD$1.7 million from the Mozambican Airport Company (ADM) during Munguambe's tenure in office between 2005 and 2008. Marroa cited evidence that Munguambe was aware of the theft and knowingly benefited from it, using the money to purchase a luxury car and to send his children to school in South Africa, rejecting claims by his defense attorney [allAfrica report] that he had no criminal intention. Antonio Bulande, Munguambe's assistant in the ministry was sentenced [DPA report] to two years for drawing a salary from a subsidiary of ADM under a fake name and using $15,000 to pay for his wedding. The other defendants were former officers of ADM, including former CEO Diodino Cambaza, who was sentenced to twenty-two years and finance director Antenor Pereira, receiving twenty years. The head of a subsidiary company, Deolinda Matos, was sentenced to two years and fifteen days after agreeing to cooperate with prosecutors. Marroa also ruled that the five had to reimburse ADM for the money they had taken. They have five days to appeal their convictions.
The trial began [AIM report] in November 2009 as part of a larger initiative of the Mozambican government [official website, in Portuguese] to reduce corruption in the government. In 2009, Mozambique's Central Office for the Fight Against Corruption and regional attorney's offices investigated 403 cases of corruption [allAfrica.com report]. Transparency International [advocacy website] ranks Mozambique among the most corrupt in the world [2009 CPI rankings]. Munguambe was removed from office by President Armando Guebuza [BBC profile] in 2008 after violent riots in Maputo sparked by an increase in the fares for bus travel, a primary source of transportation in the capital. Soon after, he and the four others were charged by prosecutors with the theft of public funds, for the abuse of functions, for making false statements, and for paying undue remunerations.