Mozambique's former finance minister Manuel Chang was arrested at OR Tambo International Airport on December 29 2018 for his alleged involvement in fraudulent loans to Mozambican state firms. Picture: AFP/ NICHOLAS KAMM
Mozambique's former finance minister Manuel Chang was arrested at OR Tambo International Airport on December 29 2018 for his alleged involvement in fraudulent loans to Mozambican state firms. Picture: AFP/ NICHOLAS KAMM

Mozambique's government plans to appeal against an SA court's decision to revoke the planned extradition of former finance minister Manuel Chang, wanted in both his home country and the US, a letter seen by Reuters on Wednesday showed.

Chang, who denies wrongdoing, was arrested in SA in December at the request of the US, where he faces charges related to his alleged involvement in a $2bn (R29.58bn) debt scandal that plunged Mozambique's economy into crisis.

His homeland has also requested his extradition, sparking a legal battle over where Chang should be sent.

Earlier in 2019, former justice minister Michael Masutha said Chang should be surrendered to Mozambique. But the High Court ruled on Friday that that decision be set aside and reviewed by his successor, Ronald Lamola.

The letter from Mozambique's government lawyers, dated November 5 and sent to parties in the case, said the legal team was in the process of preparing papers to request leave to appeal against the High Court decision.

“We have instructions from our client to appeal against the judgment … directly to the Constitutional Court, alternatively to the SCA to appeal the judgment,” the letter said, referring to SA's Supreme Court of Appeal.

Samuel Modiba, the Mozambique government's lawyer who signed the letter, was not immediately available for comment.

Mozambique's decision to appeal pushes even further into the future a decision on Chang's fate, 10 months after his original detention and with the US case into the scandal already under way.

The US charges against Chang relate to loans obtained from Credit Suisse and Russia's VTB bank, guaranteed by the Mozambican government but some of which were not disclosed, that Chang signed off on during his 2005-2015 term as finance minister.

Their disclosure in 2016 prompted foreign donors including the International Monetary Fund to cut off support for Mozambique, triggering a currency collapse and debt default.

Mozambique has not yet formally charged Chang with a crime, which was one factor in justice minister Lamola's application to the courts to have his predecessor's decision set aside so that he could review it.

If sent to the US, analysts say Chang may reveal more details of the debt scandal, with potential implications for senior members of the ruling party in Mozambique, where the political situation is fragile following a contested election.

A spokesperson for SA's justice ministry declined to comment on the letter from the Mozambique government's legal team. 

Reuters