Former Mozambican finance minister, Manuel Chang, in court in Kempton Park. Photo: AP Photo/Phill Magakoe.

Maputo - Mozambique on Wednesday welcomed South Africa's decision to extradite former finance minister Manuel Chang to Maputo, rather than the United States, over a government corruption scandal.

"This is a free and sovereign decision," Foreign Minister Jose Pacheco said in an interview with the Mozambican daily O Pais.

Chang, 63, was arrested in South Africa in December at the request of US authorities over alleged involvement in fraudulent loans to Mozambique state firms worth $2 billion (1.76 billion euros).

In the US, Chang faces charges of conspiracy to commit electronic fraud, financial security violations and money laundering.

Mozambique has accused Chang of receiving $17 million in kickbacks in a scam which creamed off hundreds of millions of dollars.

The charges against Chang relate to loans taken out by the government in Maputo when he was head of treasury between 2005 and 2015.

When the hidden debt was revealed, Mozambique -- which relies on donor aid and is one of the world's poorest countries -- was plunged into the worst financial crisis in its history.

Renamo, the main opposition party in Mozambique, said Wednesday it doubted whether Chang would ever face justice in his home country over the allegations.

Mozambique has arrested several other suspects linked to the scandal, including the son of ex-president Armando Guebuza, and senior intelligence officials.

In January, three former Credit Suisse workers were arrested in London and charged over the allegations.