Court Orders Ex-Mozambique Minister to Be Extradited to U.S.
A South African court ordered former Mozambican Finance Minister Manuel Chang be extradited to the U.S. to face charges related to a $2 billion debt scandal that led to a sovereign default.
The ruling by High Court Judge Margaret Victor on Wednesday overturned a decision by South African Justice Minister Ronald Lamola to send Chang back to Mozambique, where he also faces charges.
Chang has been in custody in a prison near Johannesburg since he was arrested at the city’s main airport in December 2018 on a U.S. warrant. An extended legal battle has raged since then over whether he should be sent to Mozambique or the U.S. Both countries have sought his extradition.
Rudi Krause, Chang’s lawyer, declined to comment when reached by phone because he’s yet to see the judgment.
The allegations against Chang emanate from loans that state-owned Mozambican companies took in 2013 and 2014 to pay for a fleet of tuna-fishing boats, shipyards, and a coastal protection system.
It culminated in the government defaulting on its debt in 2016, and has led to court cases spanning from New York, where three former Credit Suisse Group AG employees pleaded guilty to charges, to London and Maputo, Mozambique’s capital.
Victor said Lamola’s decision in August to send Chang back to Mozambique was inconsistent with the South African constitution and set it aside. Much of the legal arguments in the case centered on whether Lamola’s decision was rational, and if it was acceptable that he only provided reasons for reversing his initial decision to send Chang to the U.S. after the fact.
“This court cannot find that the decision was rational,” Victor said. “Certainly the change of tack hasn’t been fully explained. This is a material omission.”
The South African Ministry of Justice will study the judgment before communicating its next steps, spokesman Chrispin Phiri said Wednesday.
South Africa, the continent’s most industrialized economy, has looked to Mozambique as a source of natural gas that could be used to generate power needed to replace output from aging coal-fired plants. South Africa also has soldiers in Mozambique’s northern Cabo Delgado province who’ve been helping fight an Islamic State-linked insurgency that’s put a $20 billion natural gas project that TotalEnergies SE was building on hold.
The case number is 40441/2021.
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