Killing the goose that laid the golden eggs (Part 11)
It is admitted that more than $400 mn disappeared from the banking system in the 1990s: $100 mn cash injections to BCM during 1992-96, $162 mn BCM bad debt provisions, 2000 & 2001, and $150 mn needed for Banco Austral recapitalisation. The losses are probably much larger.
Corruption in the banking system has been pervasive and high level. One banker that we interviewed told us that a notoriously corrupt banker had told him "If I sink, a lot of people sink with me. I keep all my notes in a safe and I can prove that the highest level people took money. This protects me."
But information can also be dangerous. The assassinations of José Alberto de Lima Félix in 1997, Carlos Cardoso in 2000, and António Siba-Siba Macuácua in 2001 all seem to have occurred because they knew too much about fraud and corruption in the Mozambican banking system.
As we noted earlier in this series, all banking systems support preferred entrepreneurs. It is not surprising that banks were used to support a new national bourgeoisie, and the line between this and "corruption" may not be well defined. What is clear, however, is that whoever ordered the killings of Cardoso and Siba-Siba knew that their own actions, if exposed, would be seen within Mozambique as corrupt. This is not a case of foreigners defining what constitutes "corruption", but rather of Mozambicans themselves knowing that their activities would be considered so unacceptable by their colleagues and compatriots that they had to kill to prevent the knowledge becoming public.
This is not simply loans that will not be repaid, but outright theft, money laundering, and illegal foreign exchange dealings. Many people had their hands in the honey pot. Others decided not to look too closely, and are guilty of not carrying out their jobs in the banks.
With the privatisation of the state banks in 1996 and 1997, misappropriation of funds seems to have reached an unsustainable level. Faced with the insistence of the international financial institutions that the two state banks be privatised at a time when there were no takers, a part of the Mozambican elite opted for a tacit deal - the only possible privatisations are going to be corrupt, so let us ensure that we obtain our share. For both banks, in the two years after privatisation money poured out to both foreign and domestic partners.
The banks were both privatised to groups that involved important families linked to high party and state officials. But by 2001 they had lost control of both banks. Was their greed excessive; did they kill the goose that laid the golden eggs? Or did they realise that the window of opportunity was short and they had to grab as much as they could as quickly as they could?
Now, however, their only concern is to cover their tracks, and to hide what they have done. And some people are prepared to kill to ensure that the secrets are
ABSA, Amalgamated Banks of South Africa
metical - archives 2001