Ex-Mozambique finance minister fights extradition to USA

FILE -- In this Tuesday Jan. 8, 2019 file photo former Mozambican finance minister, Manuel Chang, appears in court in Kempton Park, Johannesburg, South Africa. Chang is challenging attempts to extradite him to the United States, as the extradition hearing got underway Wednesday Oct. 16, 2019, for an alleged corruption trial. (AP Photo/Phill Magakoe, File)
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JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Former Mozambican finance minister Manuel Chang is challenging attempts to extradite him to the United States for a corruption trial related to a $2 billion debt scandal that rocked his country’s economy.

At his extradition hearing Wednesday in neighboring South Africa, Mozambique’s government argued that he should be returned home instead.

Chang was arrested in South Africa last year on the request of the U.S. government, as the scandal affected some U.S. investors. Chang was finance minister from 2005 to 2015.

South Africa’s justice minister decided to review his predecessor’s decision to have Chang extradited to Mozambique instead. Justice Minister Ronald Lamola has asserted that Mozambique has not shown seriousness in prosecuting him.

Mozambique’s government wants the court in Johannesburg, not the justice minister, to decide where Chang should go. It has argued that Lamola is biased in favor of the U.S. government.

The hearing continues on Thursday.

In the scandal, companies set up by Mozambique’s secret services and the defense ministry borrowed $2 billion in secret, with Chang’s help, to set up maritime projects that never materialized but allegedly enriched a range of local and foreign players.

Mozambique is now trying to legally disavow part of the debt and restructure another part, which the southern African nation will be repaying for years to come.

The deals were cooked up before President Filipe Nyusi took office but occurred while he was defense minister, and questions about his involvement have never gone away.

Mozambique is currently counting votes in Tuesday’s election in which Nyusi is expected to win a second five-year term.

MOGOMOTSI MAGOME I Associated Press

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