Ex Mozambique minister extradited to U.S. for debt scandal trial

The South African justice ministry confirmed that Manuel Chang, Mozambique’s former finance minister, was extradited from South Africa to the United States on Wednesday. He is set to face charges related to his alleged involvement in a $2 billion debt scandal.

Having been held in custody in South Africa since 2018, Manuel Chang, who maintains his innocence, was arrested at the request of the United States on charges that encompass money laundering and conspiracy to commit fraud.

Subsequently, Mozambique also sought his extradition, leading to a legal and diplomatic dispute between the two countries over Chang’s custody and extradition.

In a final decision in May, South Africa’s Constitutional Court rejected Mozambique’s request for leave to appeal, bringing the legal proceedings to a close.

“The Ministry of Justice and Correctional Services confirms that the Republic of South Africa’s law enforcement agencies successfully surrendered Mr Manuel Chang to the United States of America on July 12, 2023,” a ministry statement said.

The charges brought against Manuel Chang by the United States pertain to loans acquired from Credit Suisse and Russia’s VTB bank. These loans were guaranteed by the Mozambique government and approved by Chang during his tenure as finance minister from 2005 to 2015.

A substantial portion of the funds, amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars, went missing, and the projects that were supposed to be financed by the loans failed to materialize as promised.

U.S. authorities have labeled the borrowing as fraudulent, asserting that the projects—encompassing areas such as tuna fishing, shipyard development, and maritime security—served as a facade for an intricate scheme of bribery and kickbacks.

When the full extent of the borrowing was revealed in 2016, it prompted donors like the International Monetary Fund to cut off support to Mozambique and triggered a currency collapse and debt default.

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