Maputo, 12 Jul (AIM) – Mozambique’s former finance minister, Manuel Chang, was extradited from South Africa to the United States on Wednesday morning.
He will face charges of conspiracy to commit money laundering, wire fraud and securities fraud, arising from the scandal of Mozambique’s “hidden debts”.
Chang has been in South African police custody, since 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.
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, which was the sole contractor for the three companies, spent hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes to Mozambican officials (including Chang) and to 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.
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 PGR made a series of appeals against Chang’s extradition to the US, but these avenues were exhausted in May when the South African 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.
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.
But who is responsible for the lengthy delay? US prosecutors were willing to fly Chang to New York, immediately after his detention. He has spent more than four years in a South African prison solely because he and his lawyers have fought tooth and nail against extradition to the US.