Former Mozambique finance minister Manuel Chang to fly to US to face graft charges
South African police have confirmed that the former Mozambican finance minister will be handed over to the FBI to face fraud and corruption charges.
Mozambique’s former finance minister Manuel Chang is expected to be handed over to the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on Monday and flown to the US to stand trial for fraud and corruption after more than four years in jail in South Africa.
Brigadier Athlenda Mathe, spokesperson for the SAPS, told Daily Maverick: “Yes, we can confirm that he will be extradited back to the USA. He was arrested in SA; we will surrender him to the FBI this week acting on an extradition request.”
Other sources told Daily Maverick that Chang, who has been in jail in South Africa since December 27, 2018, would be escorted by FBI officials on to a Gulfstream 550 jet at Lanseria airport on Monday to be extradited to New York.
Chang ran out of legal remedies to avoid extradition to the US in May this year when the Constitutional Court refused to hear an appeal from the Mozambique government against a Johannesburg High Court ruling in November 2021 that he should be extradited to the US. Maputo wanted him extradited to Mozambique instead.
He was wanted by both the US and Mozambique for his alleged complicity in an alleged scam in which, as finance minister, he signed off in 2013 and 2014 on about $2-billion in loans from a Swiss and a Russian bank to buy a fleet of trawlers and patrol vessels supposedly to launch a tuna-fishing enterprise by the Mozambique state.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Ex-Mozambican finance minister Manuel Chang must be extradited to US, rules ConCourt
The US Department of Justice indictment against him claimed the scheme was a scam from the start, designed only to elicit funds to pay bribes to the Mozambican government officials – including Chang himself – and to employees of the UAE-based shipbuilding company Invest, which supplied the vessels, and of the two banks, CreditSuisse and Russia’s VTB Capital.
The US charged Chang because it said that he had effectively defrauded US citizens who had invested in the secondary market for the loans.
The plane spotter Ian E Cox tweeted a report on Saturday about a Gulfstream G550 jet touching down at Lanseria, saying: “This US Department of Justice Gulfstream is a fairly uncommon aircraft to visit Africa.”
Cox quoted from the LinkedIn profile of one of the plane’s pilots who said, that among other assignments, he pilots aircraft for “foreign transfer-of-custody flights for high-profile terrorism and criminal subjects…”
The US Embassy in Pretoria declined to comment on the case and SA’s Ministry of Justice did not respond to a request for comment.
Chang was arrested at OR Tambo International Airport on 27 December 2018 en route from Maputo to Dubai on holiday. South African authorities arrested him following a request from the US. It was only later that the Mozambique government also applied for his extradition.
In May 2019, then South African justice minister Michael Masutha ordered the extradition of Chang to Mozambique. But a Mozambican NGO called the Fórum de Monitoria do Orçamento (FMO) – Forum for Monitoring the Budget – brought an application in the Johannesburg High Court, arguing that the Mozambican government had no real intention of prosecuting Chang and that the Mozambican people would only discover what happened to their money if Chang were to testify in a US court.
The Johannesburg High Court dismissed Masutha’s order and returned the case to the Minister of Justice for reconsideration. After an extensive delay, Masutha’s successor Ronald Lamola also ordered in August 2021 that Change should be extradited to Mozambique.
Again FMO appealed to the High Court to oppose the order. In November 2021, Johannesburg High Court Judge Margaret Victor ordered that Chang be extradited instead to the US.
In both high court judgments, the court essentially determined that there was no convincing evidence that Mozambique would in fact try Chang for his alleged crimes. South Africa’s Supreme Court of Appeal and Constitutional Court both agreed, refusing to hear appeals from Maputo against Judge Victor’s judgment. DM