Maputo — The Mozambican government on Friday submitted its formal application to the Gauteng branch of the South African High Court for former Finance Minister Manuel Chang to be extradited to Mozambique rather than to the United States, according to a report in Wednesday's issue of the independent newssheet "Carta de Mocambique".
Chang is wanted in both countries for charges related to the scandal of Mozambique's "hidden debts" - a term that refers to the loans of over two billion US dollars from the banks Credit Suisse and VTB of Russia to the three fraudulent, security-related companies Ematum (Mozambique Tuna Company), Proindicus and MAM (Mozambique Asset Management).
The loans were only granted because of illegal loan guarantees signed by Chang. No proper viability studies were undertaken for any of the three companies which are now effectively bankrupt, leaving the Mozambican state to repay the loans.
Chang was detained on 29 December at Johannesburg airport, on the basis of an international arrest warrant issued by the US authorities. Since then he has been fighting against extradition to the US.
Mabunda Attorneys Inc., the South African law firm hired by the Mozambican Foreign Ministry, claimed in its submission that Chang should be returned to Mozambique, because at the time of his detention, he was already cooperating with the Mozambican Attorney-General's Office (PGR)
Mabunda argued that the PGR had undertaken a serious investigation of the illicit loans, which included visits in mid-2017 by senior attorneys, including the Attorney-General herself, Beatriz Buchili, to the United States, France, Switzerland, Holland, Britain and the United Arab Emirates.
The purpose of those visits was to seek incriminating evidence against those involved in the fraud, including Chang. France, Britain, Holland and Switzerland did answer the requests from the Mozambican authorities, but the UAE refused any collaboration. The centre of the fraud, the company Privinvest, which became the sole contractor for Ematum, Proindicus and MAM, is headquartered in Abu Dhabi.
Mabunda claimed that the United States did not provide any real assistance, and merely used the audit of the three companies ordered by the PGR to build up its own case against Chang, and against key figures in Privinvest and Credit Suisse.
The audit was done by the world's foremost forensic auditing company, Kroll, and Mabunda said the PGR provided the US authorities with a summary of the Kroll audit report. Mabunda's implication that the US prosecutors plagiarised the Kroll report is nonsense, even though there is certainly an overlap between the report and the US indictment against Chang and the others.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) says it used a million pages of bank documents, transcripts of phone calls, and e-mails to draw up its indictment, and none of this material was available to Kroll.
Mabunda said that the US authorities have promised to return Chang to Mozambique after he has been tried in New York, and suggested here could be a reciprocal arrangement whereby the Mozambican authorities would send Chang to the US after a trial in Maputo.
This suggests that Mabunda has not even read the Mozambican Constitution, which bans the extradition of Mozambican citizens.
Meanwhile the United States authorities say there is no need for any further intervention, since all the relevant facts are already in the possession of the South African courts.
A letter from the law firm Edward Nathan Sonnenburg, hired by the US embassy in Pretoria, said "the United States is not going to intervene in the process. However, this should not be regarded as a lack of interest of the United States in the outcome of the case, or the admission of any allegation".
"The United States continues to defend its request for the extradition of Chang to the US", the letter concluded.