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The governing board of the Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, its Standing Commission, will meet in emergency session next Tuesday to discuss the request from the Supreme Court to lift the parliamentary immunity of former finance minister Manuel Chang.
The chairperson of the Assembly, Veronica Macamo, convened the meeting on Friday, after receiving the Supreme Court request dated Thursday.
Only after Chang’s immunity is lifted can the Supreme Court issue an arrest warrant. The Court’s document said Chang should face charges of abuse of his office, money-laundering, corruption, embezzlement, fraud, and violation of the budget law.
The charges arise from Chang’s role in the enormously corrupt scheme whereby three fraudulent companies, Proindicus, Ematum (Mozambican Tuna Company) and MAM (Mozambique Asset Management) obtained loans of over two billion dollars from the banks Credit Suisse and VTB of Russia, in 2013 and 2014, which depended on Chang issuing illicit government loan guarantees.
Chang is currently in detention in South Africa where he is fighting attempts to extradite him to the United States. He was detained at Johannesburg airport on 29 December, on the basis of an international arrest warrant issued by the US authorities, who have charged him with conspiracy to commit money laundering, wire fraud and securities fraud.
Although Chang has been in South African custody for almost a month, the Supreme Court took no action until Thursday.
Thursday was also when, at the Kempton Park Magistrates Court in Johannesburg, prosecutor Elivera Dreyer opposed Chang’s request for bail, on the grounds that he posed a serious flight risk. He was proposing to stay in rented accommodation in Malelane, in the South African province of Mpumalanga, which is only 45 kilometres from the Mozambican border.
Dreyer feared that Chang could easily flee into Mozambique, where he would be a free man, since there was no Mozambican arrest warrant out against him.
But if, as is almost certain, the Assembly’s Standing Commission grants the Supreme Court request and lifts Chang’s immunity, a warrant for his preventive detention could be issued almost immediately – certainly before the South African court decides whether to extradite him to the US (probably on 5 February).
Once the warrant is issued, Chang’s lawyers can argue that he should be allowed to face justice in Mozambique rather than the US.
The Attorney-General’s Office (PGR) opened the case against Chang and his co-conspirators in 2015 – but for over three years nothing happened, and no attempt was made to lift Chang’s parliamentary immunity.
“They’ve had three years – why are they only doing this now?”, mused one opposition parliamentarian contacted by AIM.
Furthermore, the Supreme Court document only mentions Chang – although it is known that there are 18 suspects in the PGR investigations. The other 17 remain at liberty, and so far none of them have been detained.Source: AIM