The three suspects, who are being held in a maximum security prison in the capital, Maputo, include Momade Abdul Assife Satar and Ayob Abdul Satar, two brothers from the wealthy and well-connected Satar family, and Vicente Ramaya, former manager of the Maputo branch of the Commercial Bank of Mozambique (BCM).
All three men had been key suspects in the police investigation into Cardoso's murder last November. The arrests came as a surprise, however, since many observers thought that the Satar family's political influence would shield the two brothers from prosecution.
"We are pleased that progress is apparently being made in the Cardoso case, and we hope that justice will be served without prejudice," said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper. "Mozambique must send a strong signal that violence against journalists will not be tolerated."
In early March, Mozambican police arrested five men who were allegedly hired to carry out the assassination. Anibal Antonio dos Santos Junior, Manuel Fernandes, Jose Carreira Miguel, Romao Massangaia, and Fernando Magno are all notorious hired guns in the Maputo underworld, according to Cardoso's colleagues at Metical, the fax newsletter that he edited until his death.
Cardoso was murdered execution-style on November 22 as he left Metical's offices in the Maputo suburb of Polana. After two vehicles cut off his car, two assassins opened fire with AK-47 assault rifles, killing him instantly and seriously wounding his driver.
At the time of his death, Cardoso was aggressively probing the 1996 disappearance of 144 billion meticais (US$14 million at the time) from the coffers of the Commercial Bank. Over the past few years, Metical published several articles naming suspects in the bank scheme, including Vincente Ramaya and several members of the Satar family. The money was channeled out of the country via fraudulent accounts opened in the names of Satar family members at the Maputo branch of BCM, reliable sources told CPJ.
Due to alleged corruption in the Attorney General's Office, the bank fraud case was never fully investigated. Diamantino dos Santos, the prosecuting attorney in charge of the case, is now accused of deliberately destroying key pieces of evidence against the Satar family. Dos Santos is currently a fugitive. Authorities issued a warrant for his arrest in January, but he has managed to elude police so far.