Mozambique News Agency
Maputo, 20 Jan (AIM) - The Maputo City Court on Friday sentenced Anibal dos Santos Junior "Anibalzinho", the man who led the death squad that murdered Mozambique's foremost investigative journalist, Carlos Cardoso, in 2000, to 30 years imprisonment.
The court found Anibalzinho guilty on all nine charges that he was facing - the first degree murder of Cardoso, the attempted murder of Cardoso's driver, Carlos Manjate, the illegal possession and use of firearms, membership of a criminal association, use of a false passport, use of false names, false declarations to the legal authorities, and two counts of car theft.
The court also ordered Anibalzinho to pay compensation of 14 billion meticais (about $560,000) to Cardoso's two children, 1.5 billion meticais to Manjate (who has been declared unfit to work because of the bullet wound to his head), $12,000 to the owner of the stolen Citi-Golf used in the murder, and 50 million meticais to Arlindo Massalonga, owner of a Mercedes-Benz that Anibalzinho stole in 1993.
This was Anibalzinho's second trial. From November 2002 to January 2003 all six people accused of the murder stood trial before judge Augusto Paulino - but Anibalzinho's place in the dock was empty, since he had escaped from the Maputo top security prison in September 2002.
On 31 January 2003, he was sentenced in absentia to 28 years and six months imprisonment. But he had been rearrested in South Africa the day before this verdict, and so his lawyer called for a retrial, appealing to the Supreme Court when Paulino rejected this request.
In December 2004, the Supreme Court finally ruled on that appeal and granted Anibalzinho a second trial - but by then the assassin had escaped again, this time to Canada. After spending several months in a Toronto detention centre, he was departed to Mozambique in January 2005.
The retrial clearly backfired, since Anibalzinho has ended up with an even longer prison sentence, and faced an extra charge (that of the 1993 theft of the Mercedes). Judge Dimas Marroa said the court found it proved that Anibalzinho had taken part in conspiratorial meetings in 2000 with the businessmen Ayob Abdul Satar and Momade Assife Abdul Satar "Nini", and former bank manager Vicente Ramaya, at which plans were laid to assassinate both Cardoso and lawyer Albano Silva.
The motive for the murders was the huge 1996 fraud at what was then the country's largest bank, the BCM, in which the bank was swindled out of 144 billion meticais (the equivalent of $14 million at the exchange rate of the time). The fraud took place at Ramaya's branch of the BCM, and the main beneficiaries were members of the Abdul Satar family.
Those who defrauded the bank faced what they described as two "inconveniences" - Silva, who was the BCM's lawyer, and Cardoso, whose articles on the fraud kept it in the public eye. A 1999 attempt to murder Silva failed, and in late 2000 the plotters switched their attention to the "second inconvenience", Cardoso.
The court found that, on the day of the murder, 22 November 2000, Anibalzinho had driven the stolen Citi-Golf, picked up the other two members of the death squad, the shooter, Carlitos Rachid, and the lookout, Manuel Fernandes, and then lay in wait outside the offices of Cardoso's paper "Metical".
When Cardoso left the office, shortly after 18.30, and was driven away by Manjate in the "Metical" Toyota, Anibalzinho followed, and a few hundred metres later overtook, forcing the Toyota to the kerb. As the Toyota ground to a halt, Rachid opened fire - five bullets struck Cardoso, killing him instantly.
The following day, Anibalzinho disposed of the Citi-Golf in South Africa, using a false passport in the name of Carlos Pinto da Cruz, to cross the border.
The Cardoso family lawyer, Lucinda Cruz, had suggested in December, that, since Anibalzinho holds Portuguese citizenship, he should serve his sentence in Portugal. However, it is beyond the power of the Maputo City Court to make such an order: under the legal agreements between Mozambique and Portugal, there must first be a request from the Portuguese authorities.
But the court did order that as soon as he has served his sentence, Anibalzinho will be deported to Portugal.
The court also discovered that Anibalzinho is the owner of no less than five cars, some purchased with the money that paid for the assassination. All these vehicles are now forfeit to the Mozambican state.
Like judge Paulino, Marroa described Anibalzinho as "an habitual delinquent", for whom the normal maximum sentence of 24 years imprisonment would be too short. He regarded Anibalzinho as "an enormous danger to society", who had displayed a lack of respect for the court throughout the trial, and had shown no sign whatever of repentance.
Anibalzinho now has five days to appeal against the verdict and sentence.
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