South Africa: Chang's Fate in Hands of Justice Minister

Mozambique's former finance minister Manuel Chang appears in court during an extradition hearing (file photo).

Maputo — The fate of Mozambique's former finance minister, Manuel Chang, now lies in the hands of the South African Minister of Justice, Michael Mashuta, following the decision on Monday by the Kempton Park Magistrates' Court in Johannesburg that Chang can be legally extradited either to the United States or to Mozambique.

The first extradition request to be considered was that from the United States. According to the correspondent of the independent daily "O Pais" at the trial, the judge, William Schutte, said he had reached the conclusion that Chang can indeed be extradited to the US, where he faces charges of conspiracy to commit money laundering, wire fraud and securities fraud.

These crimes arise from Chang's role in granting state guarantees for the loans of over two billion dollars obtained in 2013 and 2014 by three fraudulent Mozambican companies, Proindicus, Ematum (Mozambican Tuna Company) and MAM (Mozambique Asset Management) from the banks Credit Suisse and VTB of Russia.

Because American corresponding banks were used in paying the bribes and kickbacks involved in these corrupt deals, and because some of the debt was sold on (in the case of the Ematum bonds, for example) to US investors, the US claims the crimes were committed within its jurisdiction.

Schutte found there was indeed evidence that Chang had committed the crimes as claimed in the US indictment, and hence the request for extradition met all the requirements of South African law.

Schutte then moved on to the Mozambican extradition request, and found there was sufficient evidence of the crimes of which Chang has been charged by the Mozambican Attorney-General's Office (PGR), including corruption, abuse of office and money laundering.

The PGR document said there is evidence that Chang took bribes of 17 million dollars, considerably more than the 12 million claimed in the US indictment.

Schutte found the Mozambican documentation complete, and in line with the requirements of the protocol on extradition of SADC (Southern African Development Community). Under South African law, he can therefore be extradited either to the US or to Mozambique.

The decision as to which country receives Chang is now in the hands of Justice Minister Michael Mashuta. Chang's defence team can appeal against Schutte's ruling. Indeed, according to one South African expert consulted by "O Pais", Law Professor Andre Thomashausen, if the defence chooses to use delaying tactics, it could hold up a final decision on the case for more than a year.

Thomashausen thought this would be a serious mistake, and that Chang's best option would be plea bargaining with the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation), since the FBI is likely to be more interested in recovering the money than in punishing the former minister.

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