South Africa’s new justice minister plans to apply to overturn his predecessor’s decision to send an arrested former Mozambican finance minister back home, according to documents seen Saturday.
Manuel Chang has been held in South Africa since December at the request of US authorities over alleged involvement in $2 billion of fraudulent loans to Mozambique state firms.
In May, South Africa said it would send Chang back to Mozambique, which had requested his extradition, rather than agree to a competing US extradition claim.
But Ronald Lamola, who was appointed justice minister in May, moved to reverse the decision, which he described in court papers as “irrational, and inconsistent with the constitution.”
Lamola added that sending Chang back to Mozambique was also against “domestic, regional and international treaties” signed by South Africa.
The charges against Chang relate to loans taken out by the Mozambique government when he was head of the treasury between 2005 and 2015.
When the hidden debt was revealed, Mozambique — which relies on donor aid and is one of the world’s poorest countries — was plunged into the worst financial crisis in its history.
The US in May expressed its anger over South Africa’s decision to extradite Chang to Mozambique.
Mozambique has accused Chang of taking kickbacks in a scam which creamed off hundreds of millions of dollars, but critics say he would never face justice in the country.
Court papers said South Africa had assumed that Chang’s immunity status in Mozambique had been dropped but that “that assumption was mistaken”.
Mozambique has arrested several other suspects linked to the scandal, including the son of ex-president Armando Guebuza, and senior intelligence officials.
The US says the loan scheme defrauded US investors. Chang has denied any wrongdoing.
Below is the statement by Ministry of Justice and Correctional Services:
For Immediate Release
DATE: 13 July 2019
Former Mozambique Finance Minister and Member of Parliament extradition decision halted by a new set of facts
Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Mr Ronald Lamola, has authorised the Director-General of the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, Mr Vusi Madonsela, to file papers in response to Mr Manuel Chang’s urgent application to be surrendered to the Mozambique authorities.
The Minister also recieved additional papers from a Mozambican NGO seeking review of the Kempton Park Magistrates Court that found Mr Chang is extraditable to Mozambique.
Upon legal advice, the Minister decided not to oppose the application.
The Department filed its own application on the same matter placing before the court new information that only emerged after the Former Minister had decided to extradite Mr Chang to Mozambique. Such information pertains to double immunity that Mr Chang enjoys in terms of 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.
The South African Extradition Act also requires that the person to be extradited should have been charged for the crimes he is alleged to have committed. In Mr Chang case it is not the case since his immunities were not yet lifted. It is for the above reasons that the Minister authorized the Director-General to oppose Mr Chang’s application.
The Department has, therefore approached the Court to take into account the new information viz-a-vis the Former Minister’s decision. The Minister will be guided by the outcomes of the three applications on what action to take. He has further expressed his confidence in the South African judiciary, describing it as robust, objective and independent.