The Constitutional Court of South Africa on Wednesday dealt a major blow to Mozambique’s request to have former Finance Minister Manuel Chang extradited to Maputo.
The Constitutional Court reject a request submitted by Mozambique’s Attorney-General’s Office (PGR), through its lawyers in South Africa, to appeal an earlier court decision that Chang be extradited to the United States.
In a three-page ruling, the Constitutional Court argued that Mozambique’s appeal lacked “reasonable prospects of success on the merits of the application for leave to appeal.” The court also ordered Mozambique to pay the legal costs involved – the court had never weighed in on the merits of the appeal.
Chang has been subject to two competing extradition requests from the United States and Mozambique, and has been held in a South African prison, under a United States warrant, since his arrest at the OR Tambo Airport in December 2018 en route to Dubai.
Chang is wanted in the US for his role in the $2.2 billion ‘hidden debts’ scandal.
The term “hidden debts” refers to loans worth $2.2 billion obtained from the banks Credit Suisse and VTB Russia by three Mozambican companies, ProIndicus, EMATUM (Mozambique Tuna Company) and MAM (Mozambique Asset Management), with the sole contractor and supplier, the Abu Dhabi-based group Privinvest, selling them fishing boats, radar stations and other assets at exceedingly inflated prices, between 2013 and 2014.
As Finance Minister, Chang signed loan guarantees, committing the government to pay the banks in case the companies defaulted, which happened.
Consequently, the state guarantees were bought up by international investors, including American, who ended up being swindled. Thus, the American government’s involvement hinges on the fact that the scheme abused the US financial system.
Last week, the country’s Attorney-General, Beatriz Buchili, seemed hopeful that Chang would eventually be extradited to Maputo. She told the press in Praia, the largest and capital city of the Cape Verde archipelago, that she expected the extradition of Chang to Maputo to happen with the “greatest speed” for the greater good of the country. “Obviously, we hope to have our citizen back, we’ve procedural interests and that’s why we’re requesting the extradition of Manuel Chang to our country.”
This represents the end of the road for Mozambique’s challenge of the Gauteng High Court ruling that Chang be extradited to the US, meaning that his days in South Africa are numbered, as the door for further appeals seems to have been shut permanently.
Although the ruling paves the way for Chang’s extradition to the US, it is only a procedural matter. The matter will be referred back to the Justice and Correctional Affairs, Ronald Lomola, to sign off on the extradition.
Already, Mozambique’s attorneys have conformed to Bloomberg that “Chang will be extradited to the US.”
Observers say that the news will not be well received by the ruling Frelimo party, and President Filipe Nyusi who ordered and gave the PGR a war chest to challenge the extradition to the US every step of the way.
Nyusi was Defence Minister when the three loans were contracted. Although he has denied any wrongdoing or even how the loans were secured, there is evidence that he knows more than he let on.
It would be easy to control court proceedings if Chang were extradited to Maputo. This is not going to be possible in the US, where Nyusi has reasons to fear that Chang might spill the beans and provide receipts, which are likely to reveal the extent of the President’s involvement in the scandal.
@2024, Mozambique Insights. All Rights Reserved