Fishy tale of British aid and French military boats

Published by The Mail on Sunday (1st May, 2016)

Britain has suspended aid to Mozambique, one of the world’s poorest nations, after secret loans meant to fund a state-owned tuna-fishing firm were instead used to buy expensive military patrol boats from France.

The Department for International Development (Dfid), which has been sending £84 million a year to Mozambique, turned off the tap after the government there confessed to almost £1 billion of debts it had failed to disclose while taking aid money.

The move follows similar suspensions of aid from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, which includes Britain among its biggest donors.

The bizarre scandal emerged after Mozambique took delivery of eight military vessels. They currently sit high and dry on a concrete dock in the port area of the capital, Maputo.

The boats, which include three futuristic-looking 130ft trimarans able to carry heavy-calibre machine guns, were bought with the proceeds of loans taken out in 2013, supposedly to create a state fishing firm.

Critics questioned such lavish spending on fishing boats by an impoverished and highly indebted nation but the government went ahead and sold bonds based on an estimated tuna catch of 200,000 tons a year, worth £140 million. The recorded catch for 2014 was 6,000 tons.

Some of the cash raised by the bonds sale was used to buy 24 fishing boats. But hundreds of millions more was spent on security equipment for coastal protection, including patrol boats, light aircraft and drones.

The fishing firm was supposed to help fund loan repayments of £177 million a year. It reportedly made a £17 million loss in its first year.

Last month Mozambique’s prime minister, Carlos Agostinho do Rosario, admitted to the IMF that loans were taken out secretly by his predecessor without telling parliament or donors.

The IMF, which bailed out Mozambique with emergency help last October, instantly stopped payment of a second £200 million tranche. The country’s credit rating fell sharply.

Economist Joseph Hanlon, an expert on Mozambique, said: ‘At least $2.2 billion [£1.5 billion], equivalent to all government spending for five months, has been squandered in secret on boats of dubious necessity and, it is widely assumed, on corrupt payments.’

Hanlon, a senior fellow of the London School of Economics, added that the careers of aid officials were largely determined by how much money they dispensed, saying: ‘Despite war and scandal, Mozambique is seen as a country they can work with.’

The scandal appears to be a classic case of ‘fungibility’ – the term used to describe how money provided from outside for poverty relief permits rulers to divert funds into pet projects or their own pockets.

About a quarter of the cash- strapped country’s budget comes from overseas donors. Britain is among key donors, boasting on its website that UK aid is helping Mozambique ‘transform itself into a thriving gateway of trade and investment’.

A Dfid spokeswoman said: ‘This appears to be a serious breach of trust.’ She insisted there was no evidence ‘to date’ of any misuse of taxpayers’ money, adding: ‘We are working closely with international partners to establish the truth.’

Most recent articles

Whatever they do, Muslims can’t win in our society

Published by The Guardian (28th April, 2016) It is enough to make you feel proud to be British, citizens of a nation that loves little better than to boast about its brilliance at subsuming new cultures into our supposedly tolerant society. In the space of just a few days a Muslim woman clad in hijab […]

If you want us to be like Albania, you’re an ass

Published by The Mail on Sunday  (24th April, 2016) Qemal was sitting in the shade of a peach tree in the village of Gërdec, trying to find a buyer for a dishevelled donkey munching on the kerbside grass nearby. When I stopped to chat, the father of four explained he was having to sell his […]

To austerity and beyond by Yanis the menace

Published by The Observer (24th April, 2016) And The Weak Suffer What They Must? by Yanis Varoufakis (Bodley Head) It is easy to forget that Yanis Varoufakis spent two years as economic adviser and speechwriter to George Papandreou, the dismal socialist politician who inherited a party from his father and then, as prime minister, took Greece […]

Pope’s humanity puts others to shame

Published by The iPaper (17th April, 2016) Hasan and Nour Essa are both engineers, who fled their besieged, bombed and battered home town in Syria with their young son after troops tried to press gang Hasan. Ramy, a teacher, and Suhila, a tailor, are a middle-aged couple who escaped a city attacked by the zealots […]

Stop the spin. Focus on the dodgy facts

Published by The Mail on Sunday (17th April, 2016) Democracy deserves to be cherished. As a foreign correspondent, I have covered protests, revolutions and wars around the world from people prepared to die or lose their liberty in its precious cause. But it is a delicate creature, dating back centuries yet in need of constant […]

Lunacy! What planet are they on?

Published by The Mail on Sunday (17th April, 2016) African nations that have received billions of pounds in British aid to combat poverty and starvation are spending vast sums on launching rockets into space and astronomy research. Nigeria – given more than a £1billion by Britain between 2010 and 2015 – has pledged that an […]

The dirty dozen

Published by The Daily Mail (15th April 2016) Britain’s foreign aid budget keeps rising. Currently at £12 billion a year, it is due to soar during David Cameron’s two terms as Prime Minister, to £16 billion by 2020. As the Mail revealed yesterday, Britain pays £1 in every £7 of aid donated by rich countries — […]

Further dispatches from Syria’s maelstrom

Published by The Spectator (14th April, 2016) The Morning They Came For Us: Dispatches from Syria by Janine di Giovanni (Bloomsbury). Syria Burning: A Short History of Catastrophe by Charles Glass (Verso). The Battle For Home: The Memoir of a Syrian Architect by Marwa al-Sabouni (Thames & Hudson) The mechanic, blinded in one eye by […]

Say goodbye to your private life

Published by The ipaper and The Independent (11th April, 2106) Five years ago I heard a software billionaire speak at a seminar organised by Downing Street. It was a riveting discussion, but one thing in particular stuck in my mind: his warning that privacy would be dead within little more than a decade. The thoughtful […]

We train forces who kidnapped Ethiopia’s ‘Mandela’

Published by The Mail on Sunday (10th April, 2016) Britain is giving more than a million pounds to train Ethiopia’s security forces – even though the country’s repressive regime abducted a British citizen and holds him under sentence of death. Andargachew Tsege, a father of three from North London, was snatched almost two years ago […]

Poverty barons cash in on British aid boom

Published by The Mail on Sunday (10th April, 2015) Private firms handing out British aid in the poorest parts of the world are driving up profits, pay and dividends despite Government attempts to restrain them. A small group of favoured contractors have seen turnovers soar and margins rise off the back of Britain’s aid boom […]

This is about more than just money

Published by The Mail on Sunday (10th April, 2016) When David Cameron told me he was running for the Tory Party leadership, I replied that it would be difficult for an Old Etonian to win. Having seen Douglas Hurd’s dismal earlier attempt, I thought a modern electorate would not support someone from such an obviously elitist background. […]

The hate crime that leads to silence

Published by The i paper and The Independent (4th April, 2016) It was a shocking crime. Two soldiers, out for a night drinking near their training camp in Wales, came across a pair of teenagers quietly walking home together – and decided to target, abuse and beat them after taking them down a dark alley. […]

The foreign aid target is highly flawed

Published by The Mail on Sunday (3rd April,2016) Since the time David Cameron became leader of the Conservatives, I have been one of those pushing him to move his party to the centre ground, making it more compassionate towards the less fortunate in society. We agree on many things, as you might expect with his […]

Cash for terror: how the Palestinian Authority duped British backers

Published by The Jewish Chronicle (31st March, 2016) Ahmad Musa looks like a character in a gangster movie with his black leather jacket, slicked back hair and self-possessed stare. Perhaps this is unsurprising: he first went to jail aged 15 and has been behind bars for double murder. As this stern man sits beside me, […]

Give thanks for Nigel Farage

Published by The i paper & The Independent (28th March, 2016) Last week I was in Amsterdam, where I joined civil servants and diplomats for a discussion on refugees. At one stage the subject of Geert Wilders came up, unsurprisingly since this far-right populist holds a commanding lead in opinion polls despite going on trial for inciting […]

How British aid ends up funding terrorists

Published by The Mail on Sunday (27th March, 2015) Ahmad Musa sits beside me, a convicted double murderer sentenced to life in prison. As we talk, I ask him if he did indeed kill the two men. ‘Yes, I shot them dead,’ he replies. Yet we do not meet in a jail cell. Musa is […]

The sugar tax: the sweet start to a bitter struggle

Published by The i paper & The Independent (25th March, 2016) It feels a long time since last week’s controversial budget, given the firestorm over disability benefits and hubristic resignation of one minister. Yet there was also a soupçon of excitement over the announcement of a sugar tax. ‘I’m not prepared to look back at my time […]

A petulant self-serving hypocrite

Published by The Mail on Sunday (20th March, 2016) It is hard to remember a more bitter recent departure from Government, with a brutal exchange of letters underlining the depth of discontent on both sides. Iain Duncan Smith’s note of Cabinet resignation was written to cause maximum discomfort. Then David Cameron hit back hard, stating […]

Targeting disabled people is woeful politics

Published by The Daily Telegraph (18th March, 2016) Sometimes you can only shake your head at the sheer stupidity of politicians, so stuck in their Westminster bubble that they make the most obvious mistakes. For it is hard to think of a worse message to offer the country than the one sent by the Government […]


Get every new post on this blog delivered to your Inbox.

Join other followers: