- Large parts of the recent political leadership in São Tomé and Príncipe are appearing at the corruption trial in the archipelago's capital. Ex-Prime Minister Maria das Neves is among the top politicians accused of being involved in a financial scandal, where large amounts from the government's aid fund (GGA) are supposed to have been tapped.
According to the state prosecutor, the São Toméan Gabinete de Gestão das Ajudas (GGA) aid fund during the last years had been presented with false invoices by its leader, Deogenes Moniz, to cover up for transfers to private accounts of several high positioned persons. Several hundred million dobras (tens of thousands of euros) allegedly have disappeared from the fund, which aims at helping the archipelago's poor.
The investigations into the corruption have already cost the job of several persons, including ex-PM das Neves, the President's ex-foreign adviser Carlos Gustavo dos Anjos and ex-Trade Minister Arzemiro dos Prazeres. According to São Toméan President Fradique de Menezes, who fired Ms das Neves in September, the PM was personally profiting from the fraud at GGA.
Ms das Neves, however, in September claimed that her sacking had been a result of political infighting and President Menezes' generally poor cooperation abilities. She further accused the President of being authoritarian and corrupt, reminding him of "the US$ 100,000 that have been transferred by an oil company and ended up in the accounts of CGI, his private company."
This week, however, it is Ms das Neves that has to answer to corruption accusation at the São Tomé court as one out of 400 persons allegedly involved in the scandal. The tribunal, which started yesterday, is to hear out most of these accused and a long list of witnesses. The 400 accused persons were found on a list at GGA, secured by the prosecutor, detailing the fraudulent payments.
According to the São Toméan daily 'Téla Nón', the corruption and fraud scandal that is now uncovered by the state prosecutor is expected to take on even greater scales during the ongoing court hearing. The GGA is believed not to be the only state agency involved in the scam and the prosecutor's eyes are now on the postal service, "which is on the brink of bankruptcy." Billions of São Toméan dobra are allegedly involved, according to 'Téla Nón'.
The court's hearing however is set to proceed only slowly. Today, the court was to hear the President's ex-foreign adviser dos Anjos, but the former top official failed to turn up at court. He cited "private reasons" for in incapacity. Ex-Prime Minister das Neves is set to appear in court later this week.
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