The extradition of former Mozambique finance minister Manuel Chang has been halted, after it emerged that Chang enjoys double immunity under Mozambican law.
Minister of Justice and Correctional Services Ronald Lamola announced in a statement on Saturday that he has authorised the director-general of the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, Vusi Madonsela, to file papers in response to Chang's urgent application to be surrendered to Mozambican authorities.
These papers will overturn a decision by the previous justice minister to have Chang extradited to Mozambique.
Chang was arrested in South Africa on December 29, and is wanted by the United States for his alleged involvement in financial crimes totalling $2bn.
In May, former minister Michael Masutha decided to extradite Chang to Mozambique. Masutha's decision followed the Kempton Park Magistrates' Court decision regarding the extraditability of Chang to both the US and Mozambique.
However, Lamola has now moved to reverse this decision and has authorised the department to file an application, placing before the court new information which was only uncovered after the initial decision to extradite.
The new information submitted to the court includes details about the double immunity Chang is privy to under Mozambican law.
"Such immunities appear to suggest that any extradition to Mozambique will contravene the SADC Protocol, South African Constitution and the Extradition Act. As such, the previous decision may not be legally permissible," justice ministry spokesperson Chrispin Phiri said in a statement.
In addition, the South African Extradition Act requires that the person to be extradited should have been charged for the crimes he is alleged to have committed. Chang has yet to be charged, because his immunities have not been lifted.
Lamola has also received papers from a Mozambican NGO seeking review of the Kempton Park Magistrates' Court ruling that found Chang is extraditable to Mozambique. Lamola will not be opposing this application.