Chang Denied Leave To Appeal
Maputo, 21 Dec (AIM) – The South African Supreme Court of Appeal has denied the Mozambican government leave to appeal against the likely extradition of the country’s former finance minister, Manuel Chang, to the United States.
A brief ruling from the court, dated 8 December, said “the application for leave to appeal is dismissed with costs on the grounds that there is no reasonable prospect of success in an appeal, and there is no other compelling reason why an appeal should be heard”.
This follows June’s decision by the South African Constitutional Court to refuse leave to appeal. It considered it would not be in the interests of justice to hear an appeal “at this stage”.
Such an appeal would be against the ruling of 10 November 2021, by the Gauteng High Court, sitting in Johannesburg, that Chang should be extradited to the United States, thus overruling an earlier decision by Justice Minister Ronald Lamola that Chang should be extradited to Mozambique.
Chang has been under South African police custody for almost four years. He was detained on 28 December 2018 as he attempted to fly from Maputo to Dubai via Johannesburg. The South African police acted on the basis of an international arrest warrant issue by the US authorities who are charging Chang with money laundering, and conspiracy to commit wire fraud and securities fraud.
The charges arise from Mozambique’s largest ever financial scandal, known as the case of the “hidden debts”. The term refers to the illicit loans of over two billion US dollars obtained by three fraudulent, security-linked companies, from the banks Credit Suisse and VTB of Russia. The loans became debts because of illicit government loan guarantees that Chang signed in 2013 and 2014. All three companies went bankrupt, and the creditors are demanding their money back.
The Americans claim jurisdiction because the fraudulent scheme abused the US financial system and American investors were among those swindled. But the Mozambican Attorney-General’s Office (PGR) wants Chang extradited to face justice in Mozambique.
A prominent coalition of Mozambican civil society organisations, the Budgetary Monitoring Forum (FMO), has been represented in the South African case, arguing strongly that Chang should be sent to the US, since they do not trust the Mozambican legal system.
The competing claims of the US and Mozambique have been discussed at length in the South African courts. On two occasions South African justice ministers – first Michael Masutha, and then Ronald Lamola – ordered that Chang be returned to Maputo, and, on both occasions, they were overruled by judges.
The PGR has continued to use every available avenue to seek Chang’s return to Mozambique. The Supreme Court of Appeal’s finding that “there is no reasonable prospect of success” should ensure that there can be no further Mozambican appeal – but in this saga, it would be unwise to rule out further legal twists and turns.