Reporters Without Borders today welcomed Canada’s extradition to Mozambique of one of the convicted killers of Carlos Cardoso, the editor of the daily Metical. Anibal "Anibalzinho" Antonio dos Santos Junior escaped from Maputo high security prison last May and was arrested a few days later by Interpol on his arrival in Toronto, where he requested political asylum.
He had previously escaped from the same prison in September 2002 and was recaptured in the South African capital of Pretoria in January 2003, on the very day that he was sentenced in absentia to 28 years in prison for Cardoso’s murder in November 2000.
"Anibalzinho’s return to a prison in Mozambique is very good news," Reporters Without Borders said. "His two escapes were made possible by police complicity and indicated that one or more instigators of Carlos Cardoso’s murder were still at large."
The press freedom organisation added that it hoped the new trial that is now due to be held "will shed more light on this case, which is clearly far from being fully solved."
Some 30 police officers from Maputo police headquarters were deployed to guard Mozambique’s most notorious killer on his arrival on the evening of 22 January. The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) said Anibalzinho was under close watch in a special cell and was being allowed no visits.
Anibalzinho’s extradition became possible after he dropped his political asylum request in response to the Mozambique supreme court’s decision that anyone sentenced in absentia to more than two years in prison has the right to a new trial. The Canadian authorities approved the extradition on 14 December. He was finally embarked on a flight to Maputo via London and Johannesburg with a South African police escort on 21 January.
The privately-owned weekly Mediafax reported that, on his arrival in Maputo, Anibalzinho refused all food and asked to see police commander in chief Miguel dos Santos as soon as possible. He reportedly threatened to commit suicide if his demands were not met. He is said to have had a long talk with two police officers on the evening of 22 January.
Cardoso was gunned down on 22 November 2000 on Avenue Martires de Machava in Maputo. He had just left his office in his car, with his driver, when two men blocked their way and opened fire. Cardoso was hit in the head and died instantly. His driver was seriously injured.
Prior to his death, Cardoso had been probing the country’s biggest financial scandal since independence - the embezzlement of 14 million euros from the privatisation of Mozambique’s Banco Commercial. He had named three very influential businessmen in his reports: the Satar brothers and Vicente Ramaya.
During the trial of the five leading suspects, which began in November 2002, two of the defendants accused the president’s eldest son, Nyimpine Chissano, of instigating of the murder. Attorney-general Joaquim Madeira announced in late December 2002, shortly before the end of the trial, that an enquiry would be held to determine whether Nyimpine Chissano had any role in Cardoso’s death.