Justice Minister Lamola says high court is still considering…
The charges against Manuel Chang stem from the massive ‘hidden debt’ scam in Mozambique. The lengthy extradition process against him is not quite over, but it could be soon.
South African Justice Minister Ronald Lamola may have inadvertently let the cat out of the bag when he announced in a statement on Monday that “Mr Chang will therefore have to be handed over to US authorities.”
But Lamola quickly corrected that statement at a press conference the same day when he said South African courts were still, in fact, considering a request by the Mozambican government to appeal against the November 2021 judgment of the court. Johannesburg High Court Judge Margaret Victor that Chang should be extradited to the United States.
In a new revised statement, Lamola explained that the Mozambican government had filed a request for direct access and permission to appeal to the Constitutional Court.
This request was rejected on June 7, 2022.
“The Mozambican government has since requested leave to appeal to the full High Court. The case was heard on June 20, 2022. Judgment is reserved.
Chang was arrested on December 27, 2018 as he passed through OR Tambo International Airport from Maputo en route to Dubai on vacation. South African authorities arrested him at the request of the United States, which wanted to prosecute him for around $2 billion in loans to Mozambique from international banks – loans he had secretly signed in 2013 and 2014 when he was Minister of Finance.
The loans were apparently intended for Mozambique to buy a fleet of tuna fishing trawlers and military patrol boats to start a tuna fishing industry in Mozambique that would be protected from foreign competitors.
But US prosecutors say the whole scheme was really just a scam aimed at siphoning millions of dollars from the private bank accounts of Chang and other Mozambican government officials. The money came from Credit Suisse, which loaned some of the money, and Abu Dhabi-based shipbuilding company Privinvest, which built the boats.
On January 29, 2019, the US government formally requested South Africa to extradite Chang to the United States. It was only three days later, on February 1, that the Mozambican government submitted its own extradition request to Pretoria – nearly six years after Chang’s alleged offences.
This is one of the reasons why the Forum De Monitoria Do Orçamento (FMO) – Forum for Budget Monitoring, a Mozambican NGO – had asked the High Court in Johannesburg to overturn Lamola’s August 17 order. 2021 ordering Chang’s extradition to Mozambique.
The FMO argued that the Mozambican government had no real intention of prosecuting Chang and that the Mozambican people would only hear the truth about the so-called “hidden debt” scandal if Chang testified in a US court.
Lamola updated the Chang case in a broader briefing on several high-profile extradition cases the government is handling, including Pretoria’s protracted efforts to extradite two of the Gupta brothers, Atul and Rajesh, from Dubai.
He also updated South Africa’s attempts to extradite evangelical preacher and so-called “prophet” Shepherd Bushiri and his wife Mary from their home country of Malawi.
They were denied bail in South Africa in November 2020 on multiple charges, including theft and fraud, and rape by Bushiri, and fled to Malawi.
Lamola and his officials detailed South Africa’s efforts to recover the Bushiris, beginning with an extradition request delivered to Malawi’s Attorney General on December 5, 2020.
Director General of the Ministry of Justice, Doc Mashabane, clarified that after other legal objections to extradition raised by the Bushiris were cleared, the only issue currently before the courts in Malawi was whether the witnesses could testify in South Africa, in the Bushiri extradition case in Malawi.
South Africa’s National Prosecuting Authority – represented by the Malawi Directorate of Public Prosecutions – has asked Malawian courts to allow this, arguing that it would be costly and inconvenient for all witnesses to travel to Malawi. to testify in person. They also argued that it would be traumatic for alleged victims of rape by Shepherd Bushiri to testify in Malawi without the support of relatives and psychological counsellors.
The NPA argued that it would be unsafe for witnesses to travel to Malawi due to the danger of Covid infection.
Lawyers for the Bushiris opposed the request, saying the courts should insist that witnesses can only testify in person in Malawi. The Lilongwe Magistrate’s Court agreed with them in June 2021, but the High Court quashed that court in February this year.
As noted by Lamola, the Chief Resident Magistrate of Lilongwe had announced on June 17, 2022 that she would hear evidence from both sides on August 5 on whether the witnesses could testify in a competent South African court. DM