SA to extradite former Mozambique finance minister to home country

23 August 2021 - 18:41
By ernest mabuza AND Ernest Mabuza
Former Mozambican finance minister Manuel Chang in court in Johannesburg on January 8 2019.
Image: REUTERS/Shafiek Tassiem Former Mozambican finance minister Manuel Chang in court in Johannesburg on January 8 2019.

The justice and correctional services ministry will extradite Mozambique's former finance minister, Manuel Chang, to his home country, and not to the US.

The ministry said that Chang would be handed over to Mozambican authorities to stand trial on a number of charges, including abuse of position and function, fraud by deception, embezzlement and money laundering.

Change has denied wrongdoing.

In December 2018, the Pretoria magistrate’s court authorised the arrest of Chang in accordance with the Extradition Act. The warrant was issued at the request of the US  after it charged him with fraud and corruption.

Chang was arrested for his alleged involvement in $2bn in fraudulent loans to Mozambican state firms.

Chang was intercepted and arrested at OR Tambo International Airport, where he was bound for Dubai.

After his arrest, the US submitted an extradition request on January 29 2019 for him. On February 1 2019, the Mozambican government submitted its extradition request.

The ministry said on Monday that, on May 21 2019, the justice minister at the time, Michael Masutha, decided that the accused should be extradited to Mozambique, and not the US. Interpol was to facilitate the process.

Before the accused’s surrender could be finalised, Chang brought an application in the high court, against Masutha's replacement as minister, Ronald Lamola, seeking his immediate transfer from SA to Mozambique, or that he, alternatively, be released on his  own recognisance.

Upon studying the application against him, a question arose whether Change “still enjoyed immunity from prosecution in Mozambique at the time Masutha made his decision to surrender him to Mozambique”.

This question arose in light of the fact that at the time when Masutha made his decision, the accused was still an MP  and was immune from prosecution in terms of Mozambican law.

Lamola sought an intervention from the courts to settle this question in the application against him by the accused. The matter was heard in October 2019 before a full bench of the high court in Johannesburg.

The court found that the decision to extradite Chang to Mozambique was invalid since the accused still enjoyed immunity in Mozambique.

The court stated that “it would make no sense to extradite a person to a place where he cannot be prosecuted”, according to the ministry on Monday.

As such, the case was sent back to Lamola for consideration.

In May, the Mozambican government launched an application in the high court in Johannesburg for an order compelling Lamola to extradite Chang without delay. 

The justice ministry said the Mozambican government made representations to Lamola.

“The effect of the representations by the Mozambican authorities changed the facts of the matter particularly on the question of immunity from prosecution.

“As the facts stand now, the accused is not immune from prosecution and has been duly indicted by the Mozambican government.”