Lamola halts ‘irrational’ plan to extradite Mozambique ex-minister Manuel Chang

Former Mozambique finance Minister Manuel Chang is arrested in South Africa on US warrent for allegedly receiving bribes to facilitie a $2 billion fraud scheme. He appeared at the Kempton Park Magistrate Court. Picture: Nhlanhla Phillips/African News Agency/ANA

Lamola added that extraditing Chang to Mozambique was against international treaties signed by South Africa.

Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, 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.

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 Madonsela described in court papers as “irrational, and inconsistent with the constitution.”

The minister also decided not to oppose an application from a Mozambican NGO seeking review of the Kempton Park Magistrates’ Court that found Mr Chang is extraditable to Mozambique.

“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 authorised the Director-General to oppose Mr Chang’s application,” said spokesperson Chrispin Phiri in a statement.

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.

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