Maria Helena Taipo found guilty of diverting $1.7 million from government funds
A court in Mozambique sentenced former Labor Minister Maria Helena Taipo to 16 years in prison Thursday for her involvement in the embezzlement of 113 million meticals ($1.7 million) in public funds and illicit participation in business, local media reported.
Taipo was sentenced along with three of her accomplices, who received similar sentences, according to the media report.
They include Anastacia Zitha, the former national director of migrant labor in the Labor Ministry, Jose Monjane, the former head of the finance department in the directorate, and Pedro Taimo, the former coordinator of the mineworkers’ project in the directorate, Mozambique’s Jornal Noticias reported.
Five others were handed 12-year sentences for embezzlement, while two of the 11 accused were acquitted.
Judge Evandra Uamusse of the Maputo City Court ruled that “Taipo and her accomplices had embezzled 113 million meticals from the Directorate of Migrant Labor,” the report said.
The judge said she had given the former minister a maximum sentence as “a deterrent measure” and because she had not shown any sign of repentance during the trial apart from claims such as “I did nothing” or “What I did was for the good of the institution.”
The court also ordered Taipo and her accomplices to repay the embezzled funds.
During the two-month trial, the court heard that the Labor Ministry and the directorate officials working with private companies had signed fraudulent contracts and formed a group with a plan to misappropriate public funds.
The defendants were also accused of ignoring the procedures for withdrawing money from the directorate accounts, transferring money to personal accounts and had issued fraudulent invoices and receipts for events which never happened.
Taipo was particularly pinned over authorizing bogus payments which the court found to have opened space for the embezzlement of funds.
Taipo was labor minister during former President Armando Guebuza’s 10 years in office.
She also served as governor of the central province of Sofala and then as Mozambique’s ambassador to Angola under current President Filipe Nyusi.
She was fired from her ambassadorial job after investigations over corruption were opened against her.
The defense has 20 days to appeal against the court’s verdict and sentencing.