Thursday, February 21, 2019

Mozambique's Ex-finance Minister His Extradition On Hold

Mozambique's former finance minister Manuel Chang appears in state court during an extradition hearing in Johannesburg, South Africa on 08 January 2019. Photo: Shafiek Tassiem. 
South Africa is still considering whether to extradite Mozambique’s former finance minister, Manuel Chang, to his home country or to the U.S., a Department of International Relations and Cooperation official said. “We have received an extradition request from Mozambique and it’s receiving attention from our Justice Department,” Ndivhuwo Mabaya, a DIRCO spokesman, said when asked to confirm an earlier report that cited Minister Lindiwe Sisulu as saying the government plans to return Chang to Mozambique. 


Chang was arrested in South Africa on Dec. 29 on a warrant from the U.S., where he is wanted on allegations of conspiracy to commit fraud and taking millions of dollars in bribes in a $2 billion loan scandal. South African prosecutors formally filed the U.S. extradition request in a Johannesburg court on Feb. 5. “Both extradition requests have been referred to our courts for a determination as required by our law,” Ministry of Justice and Correctional Services spokesman Max Mpuzana said by email. “The final decision will be made once the court process has run its course.”

IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde (R) is being greeted by Mozambique's Finance Minister Manuel Chang (L) on 08 May 2014 at the Maputo International Airport in Maputo, Mozambique. Lagarde visited in Mozambique to attend the Africa Rising Conference. Photo: Stephen Jaffe /IMF.
Last month, Chang's lawyers argued that his detention by South Africa on a US extradition request was illegal. But judge Sagra Subroyen dismissed the application at Johannesburg's Kempton Park magistrates court, saying "this court agrees with the state to consider that the arrest warrant is valid". Chang, who was Mozambique's finance minister between 2005 and 2015, is accused by US authorities of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, securities fraud and money laundering. Between 2013 and 2014, Mozambique state-owned security companies borrowed about $2 billion (R27.98 billion) from foreign lenders, but the government only disclosed most of the debt to the International Monetary Fund in 2016.

The hidden debt plunged Mozambique into its worst financial crisis since independence in 1975. Since Chang's arrest on December 29, three former employees of Credit Suisse bank have also been arrested in London for possible extradition after being charged in New York. US prosecutors allege that Chang received $12 million (R167.87 million) to agree to sign the loan agreements to supposedly finance a tuna-fishing fleet and maritime surveillance project. About $200 million (R2 797.82billion) was spent on bribes and kickbacks, according to the US indictment. Mozambique's attorney general said Monday there were 18 defendants in their own investigations into the case, but no convictions have been made since the scandal was unearthed in 2015.

In addition to Chang, two other unnamed Mozambican citizens are accused by US prosecutors of being involved in fraud related to the $2 billion debt. Lebanese businessman Jean Boustani, accused of helping coordinate the alleged fraud, was arrested at a New York airport on 02 January this year. The arrest of Chang, who is still a lawmaker for the ruling Frelimo party, has fuelled anger in Mozambique over the scandal ahead of elections expected in October 2019.


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