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Mozambique’s former finance minister Manuel Chang, who is currently under police custody in South Africa, has resigned from the country’s parliament, the Assembly of the Republic.
The chairperson of the Assembly, Veronica Macamo, announced Chang’s resignation at the start of Wednesday’s parliamentary session.
The resignation ends all the debate about Chang’s parliamentary immunity. Macamo had earlier claimed that the Assembly’s governing board, its Standing Commission, had “relaxed” Chang’s immunity, which opposition deputies immediately said made no sense, since a person is either immune from prosecution, or he is not.
Chang is fighting against extradition to the United States, and has demanded instead that he be extradited to Mozambique. A strong argument against sending Chang back to Maputo was that his parliamentary immunity had not been lifted, and so, if he set foot on Mozambican soil, he would be a free man again.
Now that he is no longer a member of the Assembly, the question of immunity no longer arises, and there is nothing to stop the Mozambican authorities from arresting him as soon as he enters the country.
Chang has been in police custody in South Africa since 29 December. He was detained on the basis of an international arrest warrant issued by the US Justice Department, which wants him extradited to New York to face charges of conspiracy to commit money laundering, wire fraud and securities fraud.
The charges arise out of the gigantic scandal whereby, based on government guarantees signed by Chang in 2013 and 2014, three fraudulent, security related companies, Ematum (Mozambican Tuna Company), Proindicus and MAM (Mozambique Asset Management), obtained loans of more than two billion US dollars from the banks Credit Suisse and VTB of Russia. Since the companies are not, and never were, viable, the Mozambican state is liable to repay the full amount.
The US investigations showed that at least 200 million dollars of the loan money was spent on bribes and kickbacks. The US claims jurisdiction because American banks were used in the money laundering scheme, and some of the debt was sold on to American investors.
The Mozambican Attorney-General’s Office (PGR) also wants to put Chang on trial on charges arising from the Ematum, Proindicus and MAM loans – but in Maputo, not in New York.
One of the last acts of the former South African Justice Minister, Michael Masupha, before leaving office, was to decide that Chang would be extradited to Mozambique rather than to the US. His successor, Ronald Lamola, is trying to overturn that decision, and Chang’s fate will probably be decided by the South African High Court in mid-August.
Chang’s seat in the Assembly has been taken by one of the Frelimo supplementary candidates in the 2014 general elections, Maria Jonas, who is a former governor of Maputo province.Source: AIM