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Manuel Chang hears the extradition bell

The extradition of Maputo's finance chief to the US marks an important twist in the $2bn loans scandal

Maputo's former finance minister Manuel Chang has lost a last-ditch court appeal and faces extradition to the United States on charges over his role in the US$2 billion hidden loans corruption scandal.

South Africa's Constitutional Court said permission to appeal against a ruling ordering Chang's extradition to the US would 'be refused' because there was a 'lack of reasonable prospects of success.'

Chang, accused of receiving about $17 million in bribes in the hidden loans scandal, has been at the centre of a diplomatic battle for several years after former South African justice minister Michael Masutha overruled a court decision in 2019 that mandated his extradition to the US, and called for him to face trial in Mozambique (AC Vol 60 No 11, Chang dodges US extradition).

Pretoria's stance was backed by regional governments including Angola. They fear that Chang's extradition to the US could set a precedent if their own officials were implicated in crimes over which the US could claim jurisdiction.

The court heard testimony from a Mozambican civil society group, the Fórum de Monitoria do Orçamento (FMO), supporting Chang's extradition to the US, arguing that any trial in his home country would face heavy political pressure. 

Last December, some business figures including Ndambi Guebuza, the son of former President Armando Guebuza, were jailed in Mozambique over their involvement in the scandal. A civil case against Credit Suisse and Iskandar Safa's Privinvest conglomerate brought by the Mozambican government has run into trouble in London because top officials in Maputo don't want to make public any documents that could also implicate them in corruption (AC Vol 64 No 6, Disclosure costs Maputo).

Whatever the outcome of the hearing in South Africa, Chang's position looked precarious. Under the US plea bargain system, he might be able to negotiate a lighter sentence if he is seen to have cooperated with the prosecutors.

That could be bad news for other officials in the Mozambique government together with the companies and banks that worked on the hidden loans project.

Legal sources had indicated that, if pressed, Chang would prefer to face a trial in the US than in Mozambique. Some have suggested that he feared that his life would be threatened if he faced trial in Mozambique; claims that have been strongly rejected by his lawyers (AC Vol 63 No 22, Chang's extradition to the US looms).

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