The São Toméan opposition has said that Angola “was neither intermediary nor guarantor in the granting of the credit” of $30 million with the China International Fund and that there are no points that justify reopening the investigation that has been closed in São Tomé since 2019
“On behalf of the Democratic Republic of Sao Tome and Principe, the 16th constitutional government [led by Prime Minister Patrice Trovoada between 2014 and 2018] signed a credit agreement [for €28.1 million] with an investment fund constituted under the Law of the Special Region of the People’s Republic of China – Hong Kong – and based in that region,” Independent Democratic Action (ADI) said in a press release.
According to the ADI, “the credit agreement binds the state of Sao Tome and Principe to that entity [China International Fund] and shows no evidence of corruption or misappropriation of public resources, and it is certain and proven that all the money transferred by the Fund was to the public treasury account and used following the established rules.”
“Incomprehensibly, the government and its acolytes, inside and outside the country, after a tiresome campaign of false accusations and unscrupulous expedients, had associated Angola with the case when at the time that country was neither an intermediary nor a guarantor in the granting of credit in Angola, and the Sao Tome and Principe government never had any intention or purpose of contracting with Angola, much less cause it any damage whatsoever,” the party said.
Around three weeks ago, the Angolan attorney general told Lusa that “no charges have been brought” in the alleged embezzlement of US$30 million provided by Angola to Sao Tome and Principe and said that the two countries were cooperating to find out the truth.
“Our only perspective is to find out the truth and then say something. We are working to find out the truth,” said Hélder Pitta Grós when asked by Lusa.
In its statement, the ADI said that “several investigations have been carried out on the case [of the alleged embezzlement of US$30 million], both domestically and internationally, without any evidence of any crimes having been found” and noted that “Sao Tome and Principe is a state under the rule of law, where the decisions of justice prevail over all others, and that no new elements have been brought forward,” which, in the party’s view, justify the reopening of the case filed by the Sao Tome Public Prosecutor’s Office.
At the end of last month, the Movement for the Liberation of Sao Tome and Principe/Social Democratic Party (MLSTP/PSD), the main party in government, called for the re-launch of the loan investigation, “following news about the matter published very recently in an Angolan newspaper [Maka Angola Blogue] and taken up by journalist Rafael Marques.
ADI considers that “there is nothing new on the subject, but new pretexts to resume the persecution, continue to destroy the country and divert the people’s attention from what is essential for their survival, the country’s progress and the expansion of the potential” of young people.
The opposition party accuses the government of ignoring the country’s problems, especially the dengue cases that led to the declaration of the outbreak of the disease in the country, “preferring to put on its priority political agenda a well-known case that is under the remit of justice, already escaping the competence of the Government, and that has been thoroughly investigated and filed since 2019.”
“This inversion of priorities reveals the real intentions of the government and the parties in power, which with the legislative elections approaching and the fear of drastic popular censure, have decided to return to the old practices of persecution, slander, defamation and discredit, with the sole purpose of offending the image, prestige, good name and reputation of political opponents, as the only way of their survival,” reads the statement, signed by the vice-president of ADI, Celmira Sacramento.
On his blog ‘Maka Angola’, Rafael Marques – who was recently in Sao Tome and Principe – published an article on “Angola and Sao Tome’s Hidden Debt,” saying that on 25 July 2015 – during the government headed by Patrice Trovoada and of which Vila Nova and Américo Ramos were ministers, respectively with the portfolios of Infrastructure and Finance – “China-Sonangol Investment transferred, from Indonesia, the amount of US$10 million to the account of the Republic of São Tomé and Príncipe in the Portuguese bank Caixa Geral de Depósitos”.
“That amount was part of a credit agreement, totalling US$30 million, between China International Fund (CIF) and the Sao Tomean government. The remaining US$20 million ‘disappeared’, ‘went up in smoke’, ‘evolved’, and the Sao Tomean Government did not know how to request them nor to whom to pay the US$10 million debt. This is a ridiculous case, to say the least, and involves Angola via [state oil company] Sonangol,” he added.
According to the same publication, the loan was for constructing a new administrative centre and residences for civil servants in Sao Tome’s capital. It was due to be paid back by 2036, with an annual interest rate of 1% after a five-year grace period.
“China-Sonangol Investment is a consortium between Angolan oil company Sonangol and CIF and is part of a web of private interests with Sonangol companies, based in Indonesia, China and Singapore,” Rafael Marques continued.
According to Maka Angola, the National Assembly of São Tomé and Príncipe clarified in 2019 that “after searching the database of the legislative process, there has never been any draft resolution about the loan agreement between the State of São Tomé and Príncipe and the CIF,” even though Sao Tomean legislation provides that loan agreements to the state “must be submitted for approval” by parliament.