A Maputo City court has sentenced a former Constitutional and Religious Affairs Minister to two years and six months in prison on graft-related charges, as Mozambique seeks to root out corruption in government.Abduremane Lino de Almeida was taken into custody on Friday following the ruling after he was found guilty of the crime of misusing public funds and abusing his office.
The former government official was convicted of having seized $28,000 to pay for his personal expenses and four other people, with no ties to the state, to participate in the hajj in Mecca, Saudi Arabia.
The court also ordered a fine of six months, with a daily rate of 25 percent corresponding to the minimum wage, $06.60 of court tax, and to return to the general treasury of Registries and Notaries the amount spent of $2,980.
In his defense, the former minister said he received orders from his superior, in this case President Filipe Nyusi, for the realization of said trip.
But presiding Judge João Guilherme, who delivered the verdict said that it was the legal duty of the defendant to report to his superior that the funds used were not provided for in the budget and that the use of other funds not destined for this purpose constituted an illegality.
Guilherme said that it was inadmissible for anyone who until the time of the facts had been acting as minister of Justice, an arm of the state whose function was to ensure legality, to fulfill unconditionally the orders of his superior hierarchy, harming the Mozambican state.
“The sentence must be fulfilled as effective in the sense of imprisonment because, unfortunately, the defendant never showed any remorse” said Judge Guilherme.
The magistrate also characterized Lino de Almeida’s degree of guilt as serious, since the defendant knew that there was no provision for the fiscal year of that year, but nevertheless ordered and succeeded in having it carried out with funds destined to various interests.
On September 3, 2015, Lino de Almeida received the invitation of the Islamic Council of Mozambique, as minister of the sector for the pilgrimage that month.
In response to the invitation, the former minister went to Mecca accompanied by four people namely Amisse Baquir, from Pemba, the northern province of Cabo Delgado, Ibraimo Sulemane, Adelino Pinar and Momade Momade, these three residents in the city of Nampula, in the northern province of the same name.
The latest World Bank’s Investment Climate Assessment report said a failure by government to combat crime and corruption and difficulties accessing finance are constraining growth of the private sector in Mozambique,