South Africa will extradite former Mozambican finance minister Manuel Chang to Mozambique and not to the US to face major corruption charges, the Daily Maverick reported this morning. Chang was denied bail in Kempton Park Magistrate’s Court last week and is expected to appear in court again on February 26 to hear if he is to be extradited to the US.
But on Tuesday International Relations and Cooperation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu told ‘Daily Maverick’ in an interview that her government had instead acceded to a request from Maputo to extradite him there. Although South Africa had arrested him on Washington’s request through Interpol, Mozambique had wanted him back to face charges, an article signed by veteran journalist Peter Fabricius reports.
“We have agreed that this will be expedited. As soon as we are done with the Interpol case we will allow Mozambique to have their former minister back, said the South Africn Foreign Minister quoted by Daily Maverick today.
“We’re sending him to Mozambique to be tried….And we believe that is the easiest thing for everybody,” Sisulu told Daily Maverick.
Chang, accused of fraud and corruption by the US authorities, is in a South African jail awaiting South Africa’s decision on his extradition to the United States, which was also requested by the Mozambican authorities.
“Right now we have received a request from Mozambique and we have acceded to that,” the head of South African diplomacy said, suggesting that the US could perhaps pursue its case after Mozambique had, and possibly even in Mozambique.
The South African Foreign Minister had previously told DW Africa in a radio interview: “We have extremely good relations with Mozambique, as we have with all our neighbours,”.
According to some analysts, extraditing Manuel Chang to Mozambique could help Maputo limit the political consequences of the scandal, especially in an election year in the country.
Chang due in court next week
The former Mozambican finance minister was arrested on December 29, 2018 by the South African authorities at the OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg while on his way to Dubai, on the basis of an international arrest warrant issued by the United States.
“We are signatories to all Interpol protocols and we were asked to intercept him when he arrived or to leave South Africa because there are charges against him that he has to respond to. We are committed to do that and we have done so,” Lindiwe Sisulu told DW.
Last Friday (15.02), the South African court in Kempton Park rejected the former Finance Minister’s request for bail. The Frelimo deputy is due back in court on February 26.
Chang was finance minister during the governance of Armando Guebuza (2005-2015). It was under his mandate that the Mozambican government endorsed debts contracted to three public companies linked to maritime safety and fisheries in 2013 and 2014. He is accused by the US because some of the financial transactions in which he was involved were made through US banks.
The US prosecution concluded that the companies earned US$2.2 billion through a corruption and money laundering scheme, some of which passed through US bank accounts. The scandal nearly drove Mozambique into bankruptcy three years ago.
Last week, Mozambican courts detained nine people in the hidden debts investigation, including the son and the former personal secretary of former president Armando Guebuza.