Maputo — The Kempton Park magistrate's court in Johannesburg on Tuesday again postponed its decision on whether to grant bail to Mozambique's former finance minister, Manuel Chang, who has been under police custody since his detention at O.R Tambo International Airport on the 29th of December.
The United States authorities have requested the extradition of Chang to stand trial in New York on charges of conspiracy to commit money laundering, wire fraud and securities fraud, in connection with the scandal of the government guaranteed loans of over two billion dollars to the fraudulent companies Proindicus, EMATUM (Mozambique Tuna Company) and MAM (Mozambique Asset Management).
Chang's defence lawyers had proposed that he be provisionally released while awaiting a decision on the extradition request. Their initial proposal was that he should stay in rented accommodation in the town of Malelane, about 45 kilometres from the Mozambican border.
The prosecution opposes any bail for Chang on the grounds that he is a flight risk. It would be easy for Chang to return to Mozambique from Malelane, even though the court has impounded his passport.
On Tuesday, according to a report by the independent television station STV, the defence dropped its Malelane proposal and said Chang could stay with friends in Johannesburg close to the court. Chang's lawyer, Rudi Krause claims that it is most unlikely that Chang will be extradited to the United States on the grounds that "he did not commit the crimes he is accused of".
Judge Sagra Subroyen said she will decide on the bail request on the 15 February. The extradition request from the United States could also be heard that day.
The Mozambican authorities are also attempting to extradite Chang to face similar charges arising from the scandal of the "hidden debts".
Meanwhile, in New York, according to a report from the Bloomberg agency, a federal judge has refused the bail request from Lebanese citizen Jean Boustani, regarded as one of the key players in the fraud. Boustani is a senior executive of the Abu Dhabi based Privinvest group, which was the sole contractor for Proindicus, EMATUM and MAM. Boustani helped arrange the fraudulent loans and subsequent bribes and kickbacks.
He is the only one of the five named figures on the United States indictment who is currently in New York. The others whom the United States authorities wish to extradite are Chang, and three former senior managers of the main bank involved in the scandal, Credit Suisse. The three were arrested in London and the United States hopes the British authorities will ensure their extradition.
Boustani's defence had proposed that he be released on bail of 20 million dollars. Under this arrangement, he would live under house arrest in a secure building, under 24 hour surveillance.
The judge, William Kuntz II, flatly rejected the bail request. He believed there could be no guarantees that Bustany would not skip bail and flee the country. He noted that, if found guilty on all charges, Bustany faces a possible 40 year prison term.
"Having carefully evaluated the defendant's bail proposal under the circumstances of this case, the court is convinced that no conditions can reasonably assure defendant's appearance throughout pendency of this case", Kuntz said.