África Monitor

Africa Monitor Intelligence

Mozambique: Passivity of authorities 3 months after disappearance of Portuguese businessman

Mozambique: Passivity of authorities 3 months after disappearance of Portuguese businessman

Américo Sebastião, a well-known Portuguese businessman who was residing in Beira, Mozambique, was kidnapped on the 29th of June, according to local sources, and has been missing since, without any sign or evidence from the kidnappers yet. Due to the lack of results regarding to the search for the missing man, the real commitment of the Mozambican police is being put into question.

The abducted businessman is a co-owner (together with Luís Monteiro da Gama) of Beira-Boi Lda, a company founded in 2008, dedicated to a wholesale and retail commerce in the agricultural and livestock industries. The firm is responsible for hiring hundreds of people, thus being one of the major employers in the region, and Américo Sebastião was locally known for paying his staff above the average salaries.

There aren contradictory informations regarding to the kidnap’s motivations. Right before Sebastião’s disappearance, there had been local non-confirmed rumours regarding a possible connection between the abducted victim and Renamo. These connections, according to intel provided by local sources, were alleged to entail payments made to the movement.

According to different source, A. Sebastião did not have any sort of affinities nor did make any payments to Renamo, although given the fact that his workers come from an area of strong support for the movement, added to the fact of receiving above the average wages, allowed them to make monetary contributions to the movement.

This was not an unprecedented case in Mozambique, given the fact that the abduction of businessmen with requests for ransom payment is frequent in Maputo.

Particular attention is given to an incident that took place February 2006 with forest company Euromoz, on the district of Maringué, in the center of the country. The company has publicly accused the Mozambican military forces of invasion and occupation of their main camping, next to the N1 road, in the road stretch of Nhamapadza- Caia, province of Sofala. They were also accused of beating and expelling 8 workers, who were believed to be helping armed men from Renamo by supplying them with provisions.

(Analysis) The case has been deliberately kept in silent by both countries’ authorities, so that it does not disturb the police mission. The lack of results obtained by the police search (despite assurances by the authorities) has worked as a motive for tension in bilateral relations. In Lisbon, this subject matter has been entrusted to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which has been dealing with the Mozambican authorities in order to settle it. In case satisfactory explanations on the kidnapping are not provided, signs of poor effort in solving the case are shown, this might eventually lead to an unstable relationship with Portugal. Although the case has still not become too widespread in the Portuguese community in Mozambique, it has certainly contributed to an increasing feeling of insecurity, mainly because it was not the first case of kidnapping and threats against foreign residents in the country. In other cases that have also been monitored by AM, involved bank workers in criminal networks, providing access to the kidnapped victims’ bank accounts. Offshore accounts were used to pay ransoms. According to local business sources, the increase in insecurity and standards of living, along with a period of economic slowdown, where many companies are going out of business, might lead to an eventual withdrawal of Portuguese investment in Mozambique. AM is aware and has been following different cases of Portuguese businessmen who have also been victims of arbitrary decisions by the high-level authorities of the country.