Maputo — The Kempton Park magistrates court in Johannesburg has again postponed its decision on whether to grant bail to former Mozambican finance minister Manuel Chang, according to the correspondent of the independent television station, STV
The court met on Thursday and Friday, but Judge Sagra Subroyen announced she would only make her decision next Tuesday. That same day a decision should also be taken on the request from the United States authorities to extradite Chang for trial in New York.
Chang's defence lawyer, Rudi Krause, attempted to persuade the court that Chang should be granted provisional freedom against bail of 150,000 rands (about 11,300 US dollars). This is much lower than "class 5" bail which the prosecution has insisted applies in this case.
The Judge reminded Krause that part of the American accusation against Chang is that he received 12 million dollars in bribes. Subroyen pointed out that, at a previous session, the court had decided that, if bail were to be granted, it must be in class 5, and there was no ground for changing this.
Krause claimed that the charges against Chang are "vague". He said Chang is accused, not of money laundering or fraud, but "only" conspiracy to commit these crimes, and that therefore bail should be much lower.
In fact, the American accusation is anything but vague. It goes into great detail about the fraudulent companies Proindicus, EMATUM (Mozambique Tuna Company) and MAM (Mozambique Asset Management), and Chang's role in setting them up and draining money from the scheme.
Krause also said the judge was making a "false assumption" that Chang will be extradited to the United States. "There is no basis for this", he said, claiming that the American prosecutors have never proved their case against Chang.
The South African prosecutor, Elivera Dreyer, argued strongly against granting Chang any bail. She said the former minister was extremely rich and poses a serious flight risk. Furthermore, the crimes Chang stands accused of are of enormous proportions. "Billions of dollars were stolen" she said, "and this has negatively affected the economy of Mozambique".
Dreyer insisted that the whole point of detaining Chang was to extradite him and this was not compatible with any provisional release. She pointed out that, once he is back in Mozambique, it will be impossible to extradite him because the Mozambican constitution specifically forbids the extradition of Mozambican citizens.
Meanwhile, the Mozambican Supreme Court has issued a warrant for the arrest of Chang. This was only possible with the authorization of the Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, of which Chang is a member.
Strangely enough, the Supreme Court did not request the lifting of Chang's parliamentary immunity, but only the authority to hold him in preventive detention.
Thus next week the South African court may have to decide whether to extradite Chang to the United States or to Mozambique.