MAPUTO (Reuters) – Mozambique will appeal the decision of a South African court to extradite its former finance minister Manuel Chang to the United States rather than his home country, its attorney-general’s office said on Thursday.
Both the United States and Mozambique have requested Chang’s extradition over his alleged role in a $2 billion debt scandal, and a battle over where he should face charges has been underway since soon after his 2018 arrest in South Africa.
Chang has denied wrongdoing.
A South African court on Wednesday overturned an earlier decision by the country’s justice minister to send Chang to Mozambique and ruled that he should be sent to the United States.
“Mozambique does not accept the replacement of the previous decision…by another one in favour of the United States of America, a state competing with Mozambique in the extradition request,” the office said in a statement.
To that end, it continued, Mozambique had instructed its lawyers to request that the extradition be halted, file an appeal and seek for the case to be heard in South Africa’s top court.
Chang is wanted in relation to $2 billion worth of state-backed borrowing, signed off by him during his 2005-2015 term as finance minister, ostensibly for projects spanning tuna fishing, shipyard development and maritime security.
However, hundreds of millions of dollars went missing, including as kickbacks, authorities say, while many promised benefits never materialised.
Donors like the International Monetary Fund cut off support when the full extent of the borrowing was revealed, triggering a currency collapse and debt default.
A trial of 19 people alleged to have played a role in the scandal is underway in Mozambique – one of many criminal and civil suits playing out globally.
Campaigners however say Chang will only face proper justice in the United States. A trial there could also lead to revelations about the affair damaging to the ruling Frelimo party, analysts say.
(Reporting by Manuel Mucari: Writing by Emma Rumney, editing by Andrei Khalip)