Mozambican civil society wants to stop former finance minister's extradition back home
Several Mozambican civil society organisations want to stop SA from extraditing their former finance minister Manuel Chang back to Mozambique.
Fórum de Monitoria do Orçamento (FOM), known in English as the Budget Monitoring Forum, said in court papers filed this week at the Johannesburg high court that it would be an injustice to Mozambicans if Chang returned home where he is an MP who now enjoys “parliamentary privilege against criminal prosecution in Mozambique”.
Chang, 63, was the finance minister from 2005 to 2015. He was arrested at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg on December 29 2018 for his alleged involvement in $2bn (roughly R27.82bn) in fraudulent loans to Mozambican state firms.
AFP reported in February that the Mozambican government took out loans amounting to $2bn to buy a tuna fishing fleet and surveillance ships, but hid the transaction from parliament and international donors.
The hidden debt plunged Mozambique into its worst financial crisis since independence from Portugal in 1975, as donors froze contributions.
An independent audit found that a quarter of the loan amount was diverted and not accounted for. The US alleges that at least $200m (R2.78bn) was spent on bribes and kickbacks, including $12m (R167m) on Chang, who allegedly signed off on debt guarantees.
FOM said in its court papers they are an umbrella organisation of 19 Mozambican civil society organisations whose “overarching purpose” is to “monitor and influence Mozambican fiscal and financial policy for the benefit of disadvantaged groups” formed against the “backdrop of widespread government corruption and maladministration”.
SA’s former justice minister Michael Masutha decided in May to extradite Chang to Mozambique and not the US.
“However, having considered the matter in its full context, taking into account the criteria contained in both the US-SA extradition treaty on the one hand and the SA Development Community (SADC) protocol on extradition on the other, as well as the relevant facts, I am satisfied that the interest of justice will be best served by acceding to the request by the Republic of Mozambique,” said Masutha in a statement.
FOM wants to review Masutha and the Kempton Park magistrate’s court decision, arguing it is unconstitutional and invalid.
The Kempton magistrate’s court sent Chang to the Modderbee Correctional Facility on April 8 while Masutha decided. FOM argues this was illegal.
“I am advised that if the magistrate’s decision is set aside, then the minister’s decision must also be set aside,” attorney Ian Levitt said in a founding affidavit on behalf of FOM.
He added that Chang was not an accused when he first appeared in the magistrate’s court, because the Mozambican extradition request did not have an indictment or charge sheet.