The Ministry of Justice and Correctional Services has on Monday confirmed extradition plans of former Mozambique finance Minister Manuel Chang, to his home country, years after he was arrested in Johannesburg over his role in Mozambique’s $2bn debt scandal.
The matter dates back to 2018 when Chang was arrested at the OR Tambo International Airport at the request of US authorities over alleged involvement in fraudulent loans to Mozambique state firms.
He also faced corruption charges in Mozambique.
Both the US and Mozambique issued their own extradition requests over the scandal that shook the southern African country.
In April 2019, a magistrate’s court ruled that Chang was extraditable to the Republic of Mozambique and the United States of America. Then Justice Minister Michael Masutha opted for extradition to neighbouring Mozambique, a process Interpol was to facilitate.
But Chang challenged the decision on the basis that he still enjoyed immunity from prosecution in Mozambique as a Member of Parliament.
He brought an application to the High Court against current Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola.
Spokesperson for the Ministry Chrispin Phiri says Lamola sought an intervention from the courts to settle the dispute.
“The case was heard on 16 and 17 October 2019 before a full bench in the High Court of South Africa. The court found that the decision to extradite the accused to Mozambique was ultra vires (invalid) since the accused still enjoyed immunity in Mozambique,” Phiri explains.
“The court stated that ‘it would make no sense to extradite a person to a place where he cannot be prosecuted.’ As such, the case was remitted back to the minister for his consideration.”
It’s understood the Mozambican government sought to appeal the judgment.
“As the facts stand now, the accused is not immune from prosecution and has been duly indicted by the Mozambican government.
“The Ministry of Justice and Correctional Services therefore confirms that a decision has been taken to extradite the accused to Mozambique,” Phiri adds.
Chang will now be handed over to Mozambican authorities to stand trial.
The charges against him include abuse of position and function; violation of budget laws; fraud by deception; embezzlement; passive corruption for unlawful, money laundering and criminal association.