Maputo, 10 Jul (AIM) – The South African authorities have confirmed that Mozambique’s former finance minister, Manuel Chang, will indeed be extradited to the United States, perhaps as early as Monday.
Brigadier Athlenda Mathe, a spokesperson for the South African police, cited in Monday’s issue of the “Daily Maverick” said “Yes, we can confirm that he will be extradited to the USA. He was arrested in South Africa; we will surrender him to the FBI this week acting on an extradition request.”
Chang will be escorted by FBI officials on to a Gulfstream 550 jet aircraft at Lanseria airport, near Pretoria, on Monday to be extradited to New York.
Chang has been in South African police custody, since 27 December 2018, when he was picked up at Johannesburg airport, while on his way to spend the New Year holiday in Dubai.
He was held for over four years while the South African courts decided whether to send him to Maputo or to New York. The prosecution authorities in both Mozambique and the United States had applied for his extradition, in connection with Mozambique’s largest ever financial scandal, the case of the “hidden debts”.
The case arises from the illicit loans for over two billion US dollars that three fraudulent, security linked Mozambican companies (Proinducus, Ematum and MAM) had obtained from the banks Credit Suisse and VTB of Russia in 2013 and 2014.
The loans were only possible because the Mozambican government of the day, under the then President, Armando Guebuza, issued guarantees for 100 per cent of the loans. As finance minister at the time, Manuel Chang signed the loan guarantees, even though he knew full well they violated the ceiling on guarantees established under the 2013 and 2014 budget laws.
Predictably, the three companies could not repay the loans and went bankrupt. Thus hidden loans were transformed into hidden debts.
The loans were secured through massive corruption. The Abu Dhabi based group Privinvest spent hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes to Mozambican officials (including Chang) and Credit Suisse bankers. The three Credit Suisse officials involved in negotiating the loans (Andrew Pearse, Detelina Subeva and Surjan Singh) all admitted to a New York court that they had taken bribes from Privinvest.
Privinvest got its money back by massively overcharging the Mozambican companies for the goods it provided. It was the sole contractor for Proindicus, Ematum and MAM. An independent audit of the three companies showed that Privinvest had over-invoiced them by more than 700 million dollars for the fishing boats, patrol vessels, radar stations and other assets it had supplied.
Chang and his South African legal team worked tirelessly to avoid extradition to the US. So did the Mozambican Attorney-General’s Office (PGR) which claimed that only Mozambique had the legitimacy to put Chang on trial.
The US courts, however, also claimed jurisdiction because the fraudsters had used the US financial system, and American companies were among those who were defrauded in the scheme.
The charges Chang will face in the US are conspiracy to commit money laundering, mail fraud and securities fraud
The PGR made a series of appeals against Chang’s extradition to the US, but these avenues were exhausted in May when the South Constitutional Court refused to hear an appeal from the PGR against a Johannesburg High Court ruling in November 2021 that he should be extradited to the US.
Two South African Justice Ministers, first Michael Matsupha, and later Ronald Lamola, decided to send Chang to Maputo, and in both cases they were overruled by the courts.
Once he arrives in New York, Chang will not be put on trial immediately. He has hired a US law firm, Ford O’Brien Land LLD, which argues that the case should be dismissed because Chang’s lengthy period of detention in South Africa contradicts his right to a speedy trial.