Mozambique’s Attorney-General Beatriz Buchili has been very active in ensuring that former Finance Minister Manuel Chang is extradited to Maputo, and that some of those who had a role in the $2.2 billion ‘hidden debts’ scandal are brought to justice.
Buchili is on a work visit to Praia, the largest and capital city of the Cape Verde archipelago, where she told the press that she expected the extradition of Chang 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.”
Chang is 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.
Buchili has also been playing gatekeeper of documents related to the ‘hidden debts’ scandal for the disclosure process in a case before the London High Court, pitting Mozambique against Crédit Suisse and others over the scandal. Buchili and her team at the Attorney-General’s Office (PGR) have so far failed to disclose relevant documents from such entities as the Office of the President and the State Information and Security Services (SISE).
The judge in the London High Court threatened to dismiss the case if Mozambique failed to comply. Buchili did promise in Praia that her office would share the documents in time to avoid the dismissal of the case. “I don’t know if we’re at risk because at the moment we are in an interlocutory process of disclosure of documents and we’re working towards this,” she said.
Buchili was never this active when the scandal broke out in 2016. In fact, on various occasions she refused to make the Kroll audit report public, arguing that it had “information that is not yet conclusive which requires complementary follow-up, and also indications the publication of which may prejudice the investigations under way, and risk violating the constitutional principles of sub judice and the presumption of innocence.”
Eventually, the Kroll audit report was leaked. Even then, the PGR dragged its feet into persecuting those implicated by in the scandal. Finally, and after its investigation, the PGR indicted 19 people in August 2019, but it became clear that more people had been left out of the list of the accused.
One absentee was Chang, who was eventually indicted in November 2020, almost two years after his detention in the OR Tambo International Airport, and also after Mozambique had first sought his extradition to Maputo – one argument against Chang’s extradition to Mozambique was that there had been no formal charges against him. So, the conclusion was that the PGR had indicted him to bolster its case in South African courts.
While waiting for South African courts to finally rule on the extradition battle, the PGR has gone ahead and provisionally charged Chang and three former Banco de Moçambique’s (Mozambique’s central bank) top officials, including its former governor Ernesto Gove.
Perhaps, at the time, Buchili was repaying the trust placed on her by President Filipe Nyusi. Buchili had been appointed to serve a five-year term by former President Armando Guebuza back in July 2014, a mere six months before he left office. Nyusi reappointed her for a second term in July 2019, meaning that her current term ends in July 2024.
Did she struck a deal with Nyusi to ensure that she investigated and persecuted part of those who played a role in contracting the loads? The answer can only be guessed: clearly, the PGR shielded some people from indictments, including Nyusi, as some observers were quick to point out.
Furthermore, Buchili and her team – who relied heavily on the Kroll audit report’s findings to investigate and charge part of those implicated by Kroll -, did not do a thorough investigation. For example, like the Kroll team before them, which could be forgiven because of the lack of cooperation from some of the accused, the PGR never managed to account for $500 million which has been misappropriated.
To conclude, Buchili has not been a non-partisan bystander in this whole saga. But her dos & don’ts are key moves in the transition saga as Nyusi is fiercely trying to guarantee that nothing happens to him after he leaves office and the sky does not fall on his head, as well as those of his family members – this happened to Guebuza towards the end of his not so glorious term.
Nyusi cadres will eventually change the hats and sing hossanas to curry favour with an incoming new leader as some politicians are wont to do.
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