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Mozambique opposition calls on leader to quit over debt storm

The loans were acquired at a time when Nyusi was defence minister and preparing to run in presidential elections in 2014, but were not disclosed until 2016.

FILE:  Renamo's called for President Filipe Nyusi to resign after allegations in a US court that he benefited from proceeds of a $2-billion debt scandal. Picture: AFP

MAPUTO – Mozambique's largest opposition party on Friday called on President Filipe Nyusi to resign after allegations in a US court that he benefited from proceeds of a $2-billion debt scandal.

The loans were acquired at a time when Nyusi was defence minister and preparing to run in presidential elections in 2014 but were not disclosed until 2016.

"We demand Mr. Filipe Jacinto Nyusi resign immediately as president of the Republic of Mozambique," Jose Manteigas, spokesman for the Renamo opposition, told a news conference in Maputo.

He also urged the attorney general's office to "investigate the truth and consequent civil and criminal liability of all involved in financial fraud".

Between 2013 and 2014, state-owned security companies borrowed about $2 billion (1.75 billion euros) from Credit Suisse and Russia's VTB Bank to buy military and fishing vessels from an Abu Dhabi based shipbuilding company, Prinivest.

But government only disclosed the debt in 2016 -- a development that plunged the poor, donor-dependent country into its worst-ever financial crisis.

The United States also alleges that at least $200 million of the loans was spent on bribes and kickbacks to politicians and top officials.

A Lebanese businessman Jean Boustani, accused of helping coordinate the alleged fraud, is on trial in New York.

In testimony on Wednesday, he alleged that part of the money went to fund the 2014 election campaign on behalf of Nyusi.

According to investigations by the FBI, a million dollars went towards the campaign. Nyusi is referred to as "NUY" in email documents produced in court.

"This is the current President Filipe Nyusi and this was for his political campaign," Boustani was quoted as saying in official court transcripts from Wednesday's hearing.

Nyusi was re-elected to office last month in disputed polls.

Boustani was arrested in January in the Dominican Republic and sent to the US.

Nyusi has not responded to the allegations.

His ruling Mozambican Liberation Front (Frelimo), which is also accused of receiving cash for the 2014 election campaign, has said the president has not committed any wrongdoing.

In a statement cited by the state news agency AIM on Thursday, party spokesman Caifadine Manasse said Nyusi "has nothing to do with debt".

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