Maputo – Contrary to initial expectations. Former Mozambican finance minister Manuel Chang was not extradited to Mozambique on Wednesday.
According to an article in the independent newspaper “Carta de Mocambique”, the Johannesburg High Court on Wednesday morning accepted a request from a Mozambican civil society organization, the Budgetary Monitoring Forum (FMO), to suspend the extradition.
Preparations were already underway to return Chang to Maputo. It was no longer in the hands of the South African police, but of Interpol, which handled all the paperwork necessary for the implementation of the extradition order issued on Monday by the southern justice minister. – African Ronald Lamola.
Interpol is demanding three documents from Mozambique – a formal arrest warrant against Chang, the indictment against the former minister and proof that his parliamentary immunity has been lifted. Chang was elected to the Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, as a member of the ruling Frelimo party, in the 2014 general elections.
But he was not a candidate for the following elections, in 2019, since at that time he was already detained in a South African prison. The question of parliamentary immunity therefore no longer arises.
Chang was arrested at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg on December 27, 2018, on the basis of an international arrest warrant, issued at the request of US judicial authorities. Chang was on his way from Maputo to Dubai
The American and Mozambican judicial authorities have filed requests for Chang’s extradition, to answer charges related to the scandal of the “hidden debts” of Mozambique. It was Chang who signed the loan guarantees that were crucial in persuading European banks Credit Suisse and Russia’s VTB, in 2013 and 2014, to lend more than US $ 2.2 billion to three fraudulent Mozambican companies, Proindicus , Ematum (Mozambican Tuna Company) and MAM (Mozambique Asset Management).
Without Chang’s signing on the guarantees, the loans could not have proceeded. With his signing, however, the Mozambican state pledged to repay the loans if companies defaulted, which they quickly did.
For two years, South African authorities have been unable to decide between competing claims on Mozambique’s Chang and the United States. At one point in May 2019, then South African Justice Minister Michael Masutha ruled that Chang would be returned to Mozambique.
But he was coming to the end of his term and his successor, Roland Lamola, reversed his decision. The High Court, in October 2019, declared Masutha’s decision illegal, but did not order the alternative – extradition to the United States.
Instead, Lamola was told to reconsider the matter and choose to extradite Chang to Mozambique or to the United States.
The FMO has followed the case from the start and has always maintained that the interests of justice would be better served if Chang was tried in New York rather than Maputo. He clearly persuaded the High Court that there is some basis in his claim,
The documents required by Interpol will likely be sent to Pretoria later Wednesday. But that will not be enough: the High Court of Appeal in Johannesburg must hear the arguments of the FMO against the extradition to Maputo. This hearing could take place on Thursday.
If the extradition to Mozambique is interrupted, says “Carta de Mocambique”, the FMO will seek a court ruling obliging Lamola to extradite Chang to the United States. Alternatively, the court could again ask Lamola to rethink the matter.