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Mozambique’s former Finance Minister, Manuel Chang, is set to face charges in the US over his role in a $2 billion so-called “tuna bond” scandal, after South Africa’s top court dismissed an appeal by his home country for him to be tried there. It marks the end of a long-running litigation that challenged successive decisions by South Africa to extradite Mr Chang to Mozambique. Chang has been detained in a South African prison since his arrest in 2018. The Executive Director of the Helen Suzman Foundation, Nicole Fritz told BizNews that it was a significant moment in civil society’s effort to combat corruption in Southern Africa. – Linda van Tilburg
Extracts from the interview
All legal avenues for Manuel Chang have been exhausted
That’s the implications of the Constitutional Court ruling yesterday, which is dismissing the government of Mozambique’s application to appeal the High Court decision, which ruled that he must be extradited to the United States. So, now all legal avenues have been exhausted. There are no further mechanisms, avenues through which the government of Mozambique can seek to impugn the decision of the High Court, and it stands as final and its order stands as final, which is that Mr. Chang must now be extradited to the United States to face trial.
$2 billion for fishing boats but never caught much tuna
Mr. Chang, as a former finance minister of Mozambique, is alleged to have been party to defrauding, siphoning off millions of US dollars in respect of a development loan to the total of 2 billion USD that was intended to go towards reforming their fleets. Buying tuna, or buying shipping vessels actually was intended to allow for development and progress for small fishermen and the fishing industry in Mozambique. Instead, those monies were siphoned off into the pockets of various Mozambican officials.
Long fight by civil society in SA and Mozambique
Real tribute must be paid to Mozambican civil society who have fought long and hard, and they have led in the efforts to ensure that Mr. Chang be returned, to be extradited to the United States rather than be extradited to Mozambique. South Africa faced competing extradition requests but the Mozambican civil society groups have been adamant that to extradite him to Mozambique would essentially mean that he would be guaranteed impunity. There was little prospect of him facing trial, no accountability for him, no accounting for his wrongdoing. The Helen Suzman Foundation sought to intervene as an act of solidarity with civil society groupings in Mozambique. We believe that it is important not only to try and thwart corruption here in South Africa, but in the wider region. Certainly in this case, given that Mr. Chang was arrested here in South Africa on an Interpol notice, it shouldn’t be that our officials are complicit in ensuring that he doesn’t have to face accountability for his alleged wrongdoing, for his alleged corrupt activities.
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