Maputo — Mozambique has now requested the South African authorities to extradite former Finance Minister Manuel Chang, who has been in South African police custody since 29 December.
According to Chang's South African lawyer, Rudy Krause, the Mozambican extradition request is dated 10 January.
Cited by the Portuguese news agency Lusa, Krause said "It will be interesting to see how the South African authorities react, since they have received two requests from two states to extradite Chang".
The first request was from the United States, which issued an international arrest warrant in which Chang was charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering, wire fraud and securities fraud.
The Mozambican request shows that the Attorney-General's Office (PGR) is finally moving ahead with prosecutions in the case of the illicit loans for over two billion US dollars, taken out by the fraudulent companies Proindicus, Ematum (Mozambican Tuna Company) and MAM (Mozambique Assets Management) from the banks Credit Suisse and VTB of Russia, with illegal government guarantees, mostly signed by Chang.
Chang is due to return to the Kempton Park Magistrates court in Johannesburg on Friday. The court may take a decision on the US extradition request - but the request from Mozambique could complicate matters. "I think the South African authorities will now have to decide which of the two countries - the United States or Mozambique - they will extradite Chang to", said Krause.
At the previous court hearings Chang's legal team had applied, unsuccessfully, for bail. So far the Kempton Park court has not suggested any particular sum for bail. Krause told Lusa that the South African state, at the request of the American authorities, is opposed to releasing Chang on bail, because they regard Chang as "a flight risk".
"We have postponed the matter, to review some of the decisions of the judge", he added. Krause is now arguing that Chang "is not a person liable to extradition to the United States", but did not explain how he had reached this conclusion.
"If he is not extradited to the United States, he will have the right to return to his country of origin", said Krause. "South Africa has no interest in this matter other than dealing with the extradition request presented by the United States and also by Mozambique. If he is not extradited, he will be free to return to Mozambique".
Krause said it is "highly unlikely" that the court will not take a final decision on Friday. "It's a provisional date", he claimed. "The submissions have not yet been presented, and there are now these two competing requests for extradition".
But the court in New York has set 22 January (next Tuesday) as the date for the start of the trial of Chang and his alleged co-conspirators.
So far only one of these, Jean Boustani, is in the United States. He is a senior official in the Abu Dhabi-based group, Privinvest, who negotiated the illicit loans, at least 200 million dollars of which, according to the US indictment, went on bribes and kickbacks, including illicit payments to Boustani himslf. Privinvest became the sole contractor for Proindicus, Ematum and MAM, providing the three fraudulent companies with fishing boats and other assets that were vastly overpriced.
Three former Credit Suisse executives were named in the indictment and arrested in London. Although they were released on bail, the American prosecutors hope that they will shortly join Boustani in New York.