MANUEL Chang, the former Mozambique finance minister, will be extradited from South Africa to the US to face charges related to his role in a $2bn sovereign-debt scandal, as a near-three-and-a-half-year legal battle draws to an end.
South Africa’s Constitutional Court, the highest in the country, on Tuesday dismissed an application by Mozambique’s government to appeal a November 2021 High Court order that Chang be extradited to the US to face charges including conspiracy to commit securities fraud and money laundering. He’s been in custody in a prison near Johannesburg since his arrest in December 2018 on a US warrant.
The application was dismissed with costs, according to the ruling dated June 7. The Forum for Monitoring the Budget, a Maputo-based non-governmental group at the centre of the legal battle to send Chang to the US, shared the order.
The ruling is a blow to the Mozambican government, which in 2019 lodged a competing extradition application with neighbouring South Africa, and has fought to have him returned home to face charges in the case that’s also entangled the son of former President Armando Guebuza. Both have denied wrongdoing.
Mozambique had also petitioned South Africa’s Supreme Court of Appeal, which would have waited for the Constitutional Court to decide on the related case, said André Thomashausen, international law professor emeritus at the University of South Africa. The Supreme Court of Appeal will probably now take a few weeks to reach a decision, and will most likely agree with the High Court order that Chang be extradited to the US, he told Bloomberg on Wednesday.
‘That is the last step in the procedure which still has to be resolved,’ said Thomashausen. ‘After that, there will be no further recourse.’
Lawyers for Chang and Mozambique’s attorney general didn’t immediately respond to calls and emails seeking comment.
‘Manuel Chang will have to be extradited to the US,’ said Adriano Nuvunga, head of the FMO, the Portuguese acronym for the non-governmental group. ‘There, we trust that the justice system will be more independent and can help to clarify the billion-dollar fraud that has impoverished Mozambicans.’