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Former Mozambican finance minister Manuel Chang, arrested in South Africa and suspected in a US investigation into the ‘hidden debts’ case, argued on Thursday in court that he is a person with a “modest income”, despite the charges he faces.
“I am a person with modest income, despite the suggestion that I have millions of dollars hidden in various accounts scattered around the world,” Chang’s South African lawyer read out in testimony on Thursday in the Kempton Park court in South Africa where Chang has been detained since December 29 awaiting a decision on a US extradition request.
In court, he indicated that he has an account in Portugal, for travelling to that country “regularly for medical treatment”.
“I visit Portugal regularly for medical treatment and that therefore is the reason for the existence of a bank account in that country. I occasionally deposit funds in this account to use whenever I visit Portugal,” Krause read.
That court on the outskirts of Johannesburg on Thursday postponed to January 31 the decision on bail release of former Finance Minister and current Frelimo MP.
South African prosecutor Elivera Dreyer reiterated on Thursday that she opposed Chang’s release on bail as “there is a flight risk”, and “the charges are serious” and that the former finance minister “appears to be a person with the financial means” that allow him to “flee to any place”.
“Experience has taught us how easy it is to obtain false identity documents,” the prosecutor added.
South African Judge Sagra Subroyen argued that she needs more time to review all the documentation she was given on Thursday.
The ex-minister’s defence had decided to postpone the request for release on bail after the Mozambican authorities had also applied for Chang’s extradition.
In response to the two requests, the South African court postponed to February 5 any decision as to “which of the two extradition requests – the United States’ or Mozambique’s – will merit the preference of the South African authorities”.
At the hearing, Manuel Chang’s defence lawyer detailed the bank accounts and income earned by the former Mozambican government minister. Krause revealed that Manuel Chang has an account at Standard Bank in Mbombela in South Africa, opened “about two years ago,” with a residual balance.
In Mozambique, Krause said, Mozambique’s former finance minister holds two accounts at Moza Banco, a third at Millenium BIM Moçambique and a long-standing account at Standard Bank Moçambique.
The defence provided the judge with details of the accounts at Millenium and Standard banks, Krause meanwhile admitting that “there are two more accounts” for which no details were available.
Rudi Krause indicated in the proposal for release on bail that Manuel Chang is also the owner of a rented apartment in Mozambique.
In response to the request for proof of income from the South African prosecution, Chang indicated through his defence lawyer that he did not specify values, but that besides his salary as a minister and now as a member of the Mozambican parliament’s board of directors, he is the beneficiary of a Mozambican civil servants pension.
Manuel Chang, 63, was detained on 29 December in South Africa while on his way to Dubai, in a lawsuit involving three former Credit Suisse employees and one Privinvest manager regarding loans guaranteed by the Mozambican state in the margin of the parliament.
Chang, who is accused of receiving at least five million dollars in bribes, was Mozambique’s finance minister during Armando Guebuza’s 2005-2010 mandate, at a time when Filipe Nyusi held the defence portfolio.
Chang endorsed debts of over US$2,000 million secretly contracted in favour of Ematum, Proindicus and MAM, the public companies referred to in the US indictment, allegedly created for the purpose of maritime safety and fishing between 2013 and 2014.
The loans were organised by banks Credit Suisse and VTB.
An international audit financed by Sweden reported a lack of justification for more than US$500 million (EUR 440 million) of these loans, overbilling in the supply of goods and the financial infeasibility of the beneficiaries of the money.
Mozambique’s hidden debt of US$2.2 billion (EUR 1,920 million) accounts for half of the country’s total debt, although it is worth less than 20 per cent of the total in absolute terms.Source: Lusa