The Provincial Court of Luanda began, yesterday, December 7th, the trial of two citizens, accused of trying to extort the former Minister of Transport, Augusto da Silva Tomás, in exchange for his freedom. One of the defendants facing court is his cousin and another is a senior employee of the Supreme Court.
Three billion and 500 thousand kwanzas is the amount proposed so that, supposedly, Augusto Tomás would be definitively free. In this “business” were Silvano António Manuel, 38 years old, (an employee of the Supreme Court) and Augusto Trindade Bembele, 51 years old, (cousin of Augusto Tomás and director of his office, when he served as Minister of Transport).
Silvano Manuel, who supposedly had the idea of profiting from the freedom of Augusto Tomás, held, in a service commission, the functions of head of the heritage area of the Superior Council of the Judiciary and member of the personal security capsule of the councilor’s president. advice, Joel Leonardo.
Taking advantage of the opportunity to work at that court, Silvano Manuel became aware of the possibility of granting parole for the benefit of Augusto da Silva Tomás, as defendant, in the case being processed in the 3rd Section of the Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court.
More than having access to privileged information, the defendant Silvano Manuel sought to get in touch with a friend of his, identified as Paulo Jorge da Silva Ribas (profugee), in order to find him someone who was close to the former Minister of Transport, because, With the help of his hierarchical superior, he would facilitate the granting of the parole request and, in return, he would have to find money. According to the judge in the case, during the reading of the pronouncement, Paulo Ribas introduced his co-defendant Augusto Trindade Bembele, cousin of Augusto Tomás, to his friend.
Augusto Tomás was released on parole, by decision of the Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court, on December 28, 2022. Even with that, Silvano gave up on the idea of making money with the freedom of the former Minister of Transport. On December 31, 2022, at around 2:00 p.m., co-accused Silvano Manuel and fugitive Paulo Ribas went to the residence of the offended Augusto Tomás, located in Condomínio Atlântico Sul, Talatona, aboard a Lexus brand vehicle, to try to speak to citizen Augusto Tomás.
They questioned an employee of the residence, identified in the records as Caetano Caculo, and instructed him to inform Delfina Cumandala “Dona Pique”, wife of Augusto Tomás, that the Supreme Court official intended to transmit a message from the presiding judge of the Supreme Court. The couple were unavailable and advised co-accused Silvano Manuel to contact his lawyer.
The arrival of Tomás’s cousin on the scene
The couple’s response, referring Silvano’s concern to the lawyer, caused this Supreme Court official to activate plan B, to see if Augusto Tomás “takes the bait”. “Tell your bosses to contact co-accused Augusto Bembele, as he dominated the subject that brought me here”, the employee Caculo received the second information. However, Silvano sent an audio message on WhatsApp from Sérgio Raimundo, one of Augusto Tomás’ lawyers, the content of which was: “I have just received instructions from the management to call the doctor, tell his constituent, Augusto Tomás, so that I can receive or Call Mr. Augusto Trindade for some personal information. Thank you, others!”, said the sound recording.
On January 9, 2023, at a time when former minister Augusto Tomás was at the residence of his other wife, Lídia Guimarães, in Talatona, co-accused Augusto Bembele and his wife, Maria Mota, attended . There, Tomás and Bembele went to the residence’s office, where the second said that the people who were at the first’s residence were linked to the Supreme Court and wanted the amount of 3,500,000,000.00 kwanzas, otherwise the offended party would return to the prison establishment, within a week.
To justify their return to prison, the defendants used the argument that the release order issued in the name of Augusto Tomás presented some weaknesses that could turn the situation to their disadvantage. Augusto Tomás denied providing the requested amount and informed the authorities of what was happening, through the declarant António Capita. “The co-defendants wanted to obtain economic advantages for themselves, which were not due to them, threatening the offended party with harm of significant importance, as they did not obtain them for reasons beyond their control”, read the judge in the case.
Efforts by “pawns” to free a “king”
Returning Augusto Tomás’ freedom was one of the most difficult tasks for his team of lawyers, who tried not to back down in presenting the resources available to do so. It is this same freedom that served as the motto to trigger the idea of alleged extortion, engineered by a TS employee
In the game of chess, the pawn sacrifices itself to protect the king. Augusto da Silva Tomás began to be cornered in September 2018, when he was detained. The lawyers tried for freedom, but it was not possible. On August 15, 2019, despite the efforts made to try to prove his innocence in court, the “sheik” was confirmed, when he was sentenced by the Supreme Court to 14 years in prison, for the crimes of embezzlement, violation of the execution rules of the plan and budget, on an ongoing basis, and through economic participation in business.
In December of the same year, the judges of the Supreme Court decided to resort to extraordinary mitigation of sentences and reduced the prison sentences to which the defendants in the “CNC Case” were sentenced, with Augusto Tomás being sentenced to seven years and one month in prison. The lack of criminal history played in favor of the defendants. In an attempt to avoid “checkmate”, an appeal was filed with the Constitutional Court (TC), due to alleged unconstitutionality committed by the Supreme Court, which Tomás’ defenders and three other defendants complained about.
The plenary of judges of the TC clarified that the Supreme Court did not infringe the fundamental rights, freedoms and guarantees to which the convicts mentioned that they were victims, in a flagrant violation of the Constitutional Law. The “king” was overthrown, despite close to ten unsuccessful appeals, and had to be “trapped in this chess game”. The lawyers didn’t even sit back, since the last attempt to release him was in October 2022, when they presented a request for parole, having served half of the sentence of seven years and one month in prison.
The lead was prepared by the judge of the 1st Section of the Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court, Daniel Modesto. Four days before the end of 2022, on December 28th, the Supreme Court granted conditional release to Augusto da Silva Tomás, as he had already consumed half of his sentence. He is obliged to reside in Luanda and pay the total compensation to which he was sentenced. Even after Augusto Tomás’ long-awaited conditional release, the “game” was not over, as the two defendants (Silvano Manuel and Augusto Trindade) and the fugitive Paulo Ribas entered the scene, with a million-dollar proposal for the supposed total freedom of the former Minister of Transport. In the case, which began to be judged yesterday at the Benfica Court, in Luanda, Augusto Tomás appears as a declarant, since he is the injured party. The former minister was present in the 3rd Section accompanied by one of his wives, Dona Pique, who is also a declarant in the process, as well as his daughter (who always accompanied him in other trial sessions).