Former Mozambique finance minister is extradited to the US to face trial over $2 billion scandal

A former Mozambique finance minister who has been held in prison in South Africa for nearly five years was extradited Wednesday to the United States to face a fraud and corruption trial over a $2 billion scandal involving fraudulent government loans.

South African authorities said that Manuel Chang, who was Mozambique’s finance minister from 2005 to 2015, was handed over to U.S. authorities after his last-ditch court effort to avoid extradition failed in May.

It brings to an end a nearly five-year legal battle by Chang to avoid facing trial in the U.S. and be extradited instead to his home country, where rights groups have protested that he would likely be treated leniently.

He is accused of receiving bribes of up to $17 million during a scheme that secured loans for Mozambican state-owned companies from foreign banks and financiers for maritime projects. The money was looted through kickbacks and other corrupt dealings, according to U.S. prosecutors.

Chang was indicted in federal court in New York over his involvement in the scheme, which U.S. authorities allege defrauded American and international investors.

The loans totaling $2 billion were intended for the purchase of fishing vessels and naval patrol boats and other resources to help Mozambique’s fishing industry, but it’s alleged that never happened.

“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,” the ministry said.

The scandal caused a financial crisis in Mozambique when the International Monetary Fund withdrew its support for the country after the so-called “hidden debts” were revealed in 2016.

Chang was arrested at the O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg in 2018 on a U.S. warrant.

The Mozambican government’s own attempts to have him face trial in Mozambique have been dismissed by several South African courts.

In 2021, Swiss bank Credit Suisse agreed to pay at least $475 million to British and American authorities to settle bribery and kickback allegations stemming from their involvement with the corrupt loans.

At least 10 people have already been convicted and sentenced to prison by a Mozambican court over the scandal, including Ndambi Guebuza, the son of former Mozambican president Armando Guebuza. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison for receiving up to $33 million from the corrupt deal.

Source: AP