Mozambique President Filipe Nyusi has sacked the country’s deputy finance minister, who has been implicated in a widening scandal over alleged fraudulent government loans totalling $2 billion.
A statement from the presidency did not give a reason for the removal of Isaltina Lucas.
But she was the national treasury director when she signed guarantees in 2013 and 2014 for the loans to three state-owned security companies.
An independent audit has found that $500 million of the loans, which were deliberately hidden from the country’s parliament as well as international donors, was diverted and remains unaccounted for.
When the hidden debt was revealed, Mozambique — which relies on donor aid and is one of the world’s poorest countries — was plunged into the worst financial crisis in its history.
The US alleges that at least $200 million was spent on bribes and kickbacks, including $12 million for former finance minister Manuel Chang, who also signed off on the debt guarantees.
Chang was arrested in South Africa in December on a US extradition request for his alleged involvement in the loans.
The US has alleged that Chang received the $12 million to agree to sign loan deals for supposed financing for a tuna-fishing fleet and a maritime surveillance project.
Chang is facing extradition requests from both US and Mozambican authorities on suspicion of financial misconduct. Court hearings resume in South Africa on February 26.
Seven suspects including Mozambicans and ex-Credit Suisse bankers are accused by the US of fraud, conspiracy to financial security fraud, conspiracy to launder money.
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