Maputo, 31 Jan (AIM) - The South African police have arrested Anibal dos Santos Junior ("Anibalzinho"), the man accused of organising the death squad that murdered Mozambique's top investigative journalist, Carlos Cardoso, in November 2000.
According to a Friday morning report on Radio Mozambique, Anibalzinho was picked up in Pretoria, after the South African authorities received information from the Mozambican police.
The report added that Anibalzinho will be extradited to Mozambique on Saturday.
The timing of the arrest and extradition are very convenient. Since 18 November, Anibalzinho has been tried in absentia, along with five other defendants: but the trial is now over, and all that remains is for the court to pass sentence on Friday morning.
With Anibalzinho due to arrive in Maputo on Saturday he will not have a chance to speak in a public court room, and the Mozambican public will not be able to hear his account of the murder and who ordered it.
Anibalzinho was illicitly released from the Maputo top security prison on 1 September: the promised report into his disappearance has still not been made public five months after the event.
There was never any serious doubt as to his whereabouts.
Since his specialism was trafficking is stolen cars between Mozambique and South Africa, it was always likely that he would seek the protection of criminal accomplices in South Africa.
False trails were laid - such as the November claim by his mother, Teresinha Mendonca, that Anibalzinho was in London, or the ridiculous police leak to the weekly paper "Savana" that he was holed up on the island of Ibo, off the northern Mozambican coast.
Claims by police commander Miguel dos Santos that Anibalzinho was alive and well led to suspicions that the police knew where he was, but had no intention of bringing him back until the trial was over.
Anibalzinho was the key link between those who ordered the assassination and those who carried it out. According to the prosecution, loan shark Momade Assife Abdul Satar ("Nini"), his brother Ayob Abdul Satar, owner of the foreign exchange bureau Unicambios, and former bank manager Vicente Ramaya, hired Anibalzinho to murder Cardoso.
Anibalzinho then recruited the two other members of the death squad, Carlitos Rachide and Manuel Fernandes. Both of them have confessed to the crime, and testified that Anibalzinho drove the car that was used to ambush Cardoso.
The defence of Nini Satar is that, while he paid large sums of money to Anibalzinho (the equivalent of 50,000 US dollars), this was on the instructions of businessman Nyimpine Chissano, the oldest son of President Joaquim Chissano.
Anibalzinho's testimony would thus have been important as to the involvement or otherwise of Nyimpine Chissano, and of Ayob Satar and Vicente Ramaya, both of whom deny having any dealings with him.
Maputo, 31 Jan (AIM) - The Maputo City Court on Friday found all six men charged with the murder of Mozambique's top investigative journalist Carlos Cardoso guilty, and sentenced them to prison terms of up to 28 years and six months.
All six were also found guilty of the attempted murder of Cardoso's driver, Carlos Manjate, who was severely injured in the November 2000 ambush.
The man who received the longest jail term is Anibal dos Santos Junior ("Anibalzinho"). He was tried in absentia, because he was illicitly released from the Maputo top security prison on 1 September. However, South African police arrested him on the outskirts of Pretoria on Thursday, and he is likely to be extradited to Mozambique at the weekend.
The court found that Anibalzinho recruited the death squad that murdered Cardoso and drove the car used in the ambush.
He was sentenced to 22 years for first degree murder, 18 years for attempted murder, 10 years for criminal conspiracy, 10 years for the theft of the car used in the assassination, 9 years for illegal use of a firearm, 14 months for the use of a false passport, eight months for two counts of the use of false names, and four months for making false statements to the authorities.
This was consolidated into a single prison term of 28 years and six months. This is longer than the usual maximum of 24 years, partly because of the multiplicity of crimes committed, and partly because the court decided that Anibalzinho is "a habitual delinquent".
The two other members of the death squad, Carlitos Rachide (who fired the fatal shots), and Manuel Fernandes (who acted as look-out), each received a sentence of 23 years and six months.
Telling marginally in their favour was the fact that they had both freely confessed to the crime, which the court regarded as a mitigating circumstance.
The other three accused were all found guilty of ordering the crime. Loan shark Momade Assife Abdul Satar ("Nini") was sentenced to 24 years imprisonment, and his brother, Ayob Abdul Satar, owner of the Unicambios foreign exchange bureau, is to serve 23 years and three months. Their associate, former bank manager Vicente Ramaya, received a sentence of 23 years and six months.
In addition, the court ordered the six to pay compensation of 14 billion meticais (588,000 US dollars) to Cardoso's two children, 13 year old Ibo and seven year old Milena, and 500 million meticais to Carlos Manjate.
This is 100 per cent of the compensation which the lawyers for the Cardoso family and for Manjate had demanded. In addition, the court ordered Anibalzinho and Fernandes to pay 12,000 dollars to the company that owned the stolen Citi-Golf used in the murder, even though the company had not asked for compensation.
The court decreed that a variety of goods seized from the assassins are forfeit to the state. These include all the mobile phones that they were using illicitly in the prison, and cars purchased with the payment for the assassination. One of these cars is a Mercedes-Benz acquired by Anibalzinho immediately after the murder. The presiding judge, Augusto Paulino, noted that this car "has miraculously returned to a relative of Anibalzinho from the police car park where it was being held". He issued a warrant ordering that the Mercedes be seized at once, and returned to police custody.
In the four hour ruling, giving the court's reasons for its verdict and sentence, Paulino stressed that "others" could also have been involved in the murder. The court agreed with the prosecution that the reason why the Satar brothers and Ramaya wanted to eliminate Cardoso was because of his investigation into the massive fraud in which the country's largest bank, the BCM, lost 144 billion meticais (14 million dollars at the exchange rate of the time). The money was stolen at Ramaya's BCM branch, through accounts opened by members of the Abdul Satar family.
But Paulino did not rule the possibility that other people may have been involved in the assassination for "other motives".
The court believed that the murder had been plotted at conspiratorial meetings held in mid-2000 in the Rovuma hotel. But the judges believed that there had been other meetings "which included the partication of individuals other than the defendants". These meetings had taken place at Unicambios, at the house of rich businesswoman Candida Cossa, and at Expresso Tours, the company owned by Nyimpine Chissano, the oldest son of President Joaquim Chissano.
Paulino noted that these meetings, at which Nyimpine Chissano was allegedly present were reported by Nini Satar to Antonio Frangoulis, the then head of the Maputo branch of the Criminal Investigation Police (PIC). Frangoulis reported this to his superiors (including Interior Minister Almerino Manhenje), following which he was sacked.
The court could neither condemn or acquit Nyimpine Chissano, since he is not a defendant in this case. But the fact that Paulino mentioned Nyimpine and Expresso Tours will certainly give further impetus to the separate case file, currently in the hands of the Public Prosecutor's Office, in which Chissano Jr is a suspect.
Maputo, 31 Jan (AIM) - Augusto Paulino, the presiding judge in the Carlos Cardoso murder trial, on Friday suggested that the Public Prosecutor's Office should look into the behaviour of a weekly paper which published what it claimed to be the court's ruling in the case a day early.
The paper "Zambeze" claimed to have access to the court's verdict and sentences, and splashed this story across its front page in an unsigned article. However, the "Zambeze" story bore little relation to the real ruling as read out by Paulino on Friday. "Zambeze" had guessed that five of the accused would receive 24 year sentences, and the sixth 10 years.
In fact, all six were sentenced to over 23 years, and the most severe sentence was 28 years and six months. Furthermore the sentences were broken down, crime by crime, a detail entirely absent from the "Zambeze" story. Thus each of the six was sentenced separately for the first degree murder of Cardoso, for the attempted murder of his driver Carlos Manjate, and for criminal conspiracy. Several were also sentenced for other crimes - including illegal use of a firearm, car theft, and use of a false passport.
Had these sentences been accumulated, loan shark Momade Assife Abdul Satar, for instance, would end up serving 50 years and eight months. In fact, the Mozambican practice is to consolidate the separate sentences, and this resulted in overall sentences of, for example, 23 years and three months. Paulino recalled that, when the court retired, on 13 January, to consider its ruling, he had urged the media not to pre-empt its decision. He regretted that some papers had paid no attention to this request.
Paulino considered the way in which some of the media had carried out ad-hoc opinion polls among members of the public about the trial as "violations of journalistic ethics".
But much worse was "Zambeze", which he described as "a paper that picks up a ruling that doesn't exist, and turns it into its major story and the subject of an editorial". He wondered where "Zambeze" had picked up the false ruling.
This kind of behaviour by the media "greatly displeased" the court he said. It could be interpreted as an attempt to influence the court, and "to affect the freedom and independence enjoyed by judges".
He suggested it would be appropriate for the Public Prosecutor's office and for the Supreme Mass Media Council (the watchdog press freedom body established under the constitution) "to look into what happened".
The editor of "Zambeze", Lourenco Jossias, told AIM that Paulino would be welcome "to do what the law entitles him to do, and send a denial to the paper".
As for a possible investigation by the Public Prosecutor's Office, "that's his suggestion. We're waiting", Jossias said.
Asked whether his paper had been deceived by its sources, Jossias replied "We're not sure whether we were deceived or not. We're still looking at the matter".
He claimed that the publication of the false court ruling would not affect the paper's credibility.
Maputo, 31 Jan (AIM) - Sometimes the wheels of justice move rapidly: on Friday evening Anibal dos Santos Junior ("Anibalzinho"), the man who organised the murder of Mozambique's top investigative journalist, Carlos Cardoso, was returned to Maputo, slightly more than 24 hours after the South African police apprehended him on the outskirts of Pretoria. Anibalzinho made a brief appearance in a Pretoria court on Friday morning, and the South African authorities had no difficulty in acceding to the Mozambican request for his extradition. That he was extradited at once exceeded the expectations of Cardoso's family and friends, who believed that he would not be returned to Maputo before Saturday at the earliest. The plane carrying Anibalzinho touched down at about 18.15 at Maputo International Airport. As he left the plane, the assassin was not wearing handcuffs - which allowed him to give an arrogant wave to the reporters, police and onlookers.
The commander of the riot police, Zacarias Cossa, assured a Mozambican Television crew that Anibalzinho would be handcuffed as soon as he was inside the waiting car.
There was no opportunity for Anibalzinho to say anything to the press, and he was whisked away to the top security prison, from which he had been illicitly released on 1 September.
Anibalzinho was tried in absentia - and just three hours before his return, the Maputo City Court sentenced him to 28 years and six months imprisonment for his part in the murder.
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