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The Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg today rejected a request from the Mozambique government for a higher South African court to uphold the extradition of former minister Manuel Chang to Mozambique.
“After hearing and considering the parties’ arguments, this court came to the conclusion that there is no reasonable prospect of another court finding a different conclusion,” Judge Colin Lamont announced.
“Therefore, the request to appeal is rejected,” the South African curt ruled.
Judge Lamont, along with Judges Denise Fisher and Edwin Molahehi today heard, at the High Court in Johannesburg, brief arguments by the Mozambican Attorney General’s Office (PGR) and the South African Minister of Justice, Ronald Lamola, on the Maputo request.
Mozambique disputes this very same panel’s ruling of November 1 ordering the South African government to review the extradition of Manuel Chang, arrested about a year ago in South Africa at the request of the United States, which wants to put the former Mozambican finance minister on trial in the United States for fraud and international corruption.
“In this case, there are two important aspects to consider. The first is the interpretation of Article 4 (e) of the SADC Protocol on Extradition, which the Supreme Court of Appeal will take a different reading from the one preferred by this court,” the South African lawyer representing Mozambique, William Mokhare, pointed out today.
“And secondly, it is a case of significant importance due to the involvement of two countries requiring Mr. Chang’s extradition, which is why it is an unprecedented case in South Africa and, above all, also because the former minister took a decision that was contradicted by the current minister, thus constituting a novelty,” Mokhare told the panel of jurists.
In Mokhare’s opinion, “the issue must be clarified by the Constitutional Court” of South Africa.
Mozambique argues that the Southern African Development Community (SADC) regional legal instrument permits the extradition of the former Mozambican minister to be tried in his country, since “it only prohibits the extradition of those who have absolute immunity”, adding that “Chang’s immunity is conditional and accordingly, the immunity referred to in Article 4 (e) does not apply to him”.
However, the South African government considered that “there is nothing new in this case, first because this court ruled, based on the interpretation of Article 4 and based on the Mozambique version, concluding that the immunity that Mr Chang enjoys was central to the debate and decisions of this court, as has been referenced several times in its judgment, and the grounds of which have not been challenged by the applicant (Mozambique)”.
“Mozambique and the Attorney General of the Republic of Mozambique are the guardians of their own criminal law and the way immunity works in that country; and secondly, Mozambique is a repository of the facts related to how it investigated the case and intends to judge Chang and yet allowed him to move freely until the time he was arrested in this country,” said lawyer Vincent Maleka, representing South Africa’s current Justice Minister Ronald Lamola.
“These facts were not disputed,” he said.
“There was only one request for extradition at the time of the minister’s decision, and another point to consider is the interest of this court. A process of litigation through other courts may take months or years, which implies the continuation of Mr Chang’s arrest, and his future will remain unresolved until there is a ruling by the Court of Appeal. When that will happen, we don’t know,” Maleka said.
On July 13, after his appointment by President Cyril Ramaphosa, Ronald Lamola requested that the decision of former justice minister Michael Masutha be reviewed and annulled on the grounds that it was contrary to the provisions of the South African Extradition Act.
Masutha announced the decision to extradite Manuel Chang to Mozambique on the last day of Jacob Zuma’s government, after reviewing requests from both the US and Mozambique.
The Helen Suzman Foundation also spoke at today’s hour-long hearing, in favour of Chang’s extradition to the United States.
Speaking to Lusa, at the end of the hearing, lawyer Sami Modiba said that Mozambique will appeal today’s ruling with the South African Supreme Court of Appeal.
“This decision was already anticipated because this court is the same as the one that pronounced the sentence (November 1), but it is not the end of the case: we will ask the Supreme Court of Appeal directly for permission to appeal,” he said.
Modiba told Lusa that the submission would be made in January and, in this regard, an identical notification was submitted to the Constitutional Court of South Africa last November.
Manuel Chang, 62, has been detained in Modderbee Prison outside Johannesburg since December 29 last year at the request of the US, the first extradition claimant for Manuel Chang.
The former Mozambican finance minister, who was arrested at Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International Airport on his way to Dubai, is awaiting trial in a New York court for fraud, corruption and money laundering.
Manuel Chang’s arrest and US extradition request are related to his role in providing financial guarantees from the Mozambican government for loans to public maritime security and fishing companies Ematum, Proindicus and MAM, without the knowledge of the Assembly of the Republic and the Administrative Tribunal of Mozambique.Source: Lusa
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