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Kempton Park Court Judge William J.J. Schutte yesterday decided to postponing a decision on the United States’ request for the extradition of former Mozambican finance minister Manuel Chang until Monday.
“The request from Mozambique is to be analysed separately, and the case is postponed until 11 a.m. on Monday to consider the United States’ request,” the judge said at the closing of Thursday’s hearing in the South African court.
The court therefore decided to proceed with analysing the United States’ extradition request, the first to be presented to the South African court, leaving the Mozambican request for extradition to be decided at a later time, separately and possibly by another magistrate.
“The court cannot decide to consolidate the two competitive requests,” the judge said.
Chang’s defence lawyer William Vermuelen had said that the former Mozambican finance minister “accepted the extradition request from Mozambique and opposed his extradition to the United States”.
“The question is not whether or not he is extraditable but for which country is he going to be extradited to and so it does not make sense to lengthen the process further when we could already send the two (extradition) requests to the Minister of Justice (South Africa) to decide to which country he will be extradited,” said Vermuelen, arguing that the court should consolidate competing extradition requests from the US and Mozambique.
“It only makes sense to go to Mozambique, which is his country of nationality, where he enjoys all the benefits and support, and where he most likely can await trial on bail,” Vermuelen said.
South African prosecutor Johan Du Toit argued that “the fact that a person wants to go to a particular destination does not mean that he should go to that destination”. “We must consider the merits of both applications in the interest of justice and the minister will then decide on the execution of this court’s decision,” he said.
Yesterday’s meeting was also marked by a request by the Mozambican NGO Centre for Public Integrity to constitute itself a ‘friend of the court’, and the rejection of this request by the court.
According to the judge, the South African court has no power to accept that a non-governmental organisation representing Mozambican civil society as a ‘friend of the court’, a figure similar to that of an assistant in the case (in the Mozambican legal context).
“The purpose of this request to be considered ‘friends of court’ is to allow our client to be able to make written and oral statements to the court regarding the extradition proceedings of Manuel Chang” the that had been made this morning reads.
Chang’s defence opposed the CIP’ petition.
Member of Parliament and former finance minister Manuel Chang has been detained in South Africa since December 29, 2018 under an international warrant issued by the United States, requesting his extradition as part of his investigation into hidden debts in Mozambique.
Manuel Chang, 63, is a member of the Central Committee of the Mozambican Liberation Front party (Frelimo), the party in power since 1975, and enjoys immunity in Mozambique as a deputy in the Assembly of the Republic.
Chang was Deputy Minister of Planning and Finance between 2000 and 2004, in the executive of Joaquim Chissano and Minister of Finance in the ten years of the government of Armando Emílio Guebuza between 2005 and 2015.
US prosecution claim Manuel Chang allegedly received millions of dollars in bribes in exchange for debts secretly contracted by the Mozambican state, without the knowledge of the parliament between 2013 and 2014 of more than two billion dollars in favour of three public companies (Ematum, Proindicus and MAM) set up for this purpose in Mozambique.Source: Lusa