Former Mozambican finance minister, Manuel Chang, in court in Kempton Park, Johannesburg, earlier this year. Chang appeared in court following a US extradition request in connection with an alleged dollar 2 billion fraud scheme. File picture: Phill Magakoe/AP
Former Mozambican finance minister, Manuel Chang, in court in Kempton Park, Johannesburg, earlier this year. Chang appeared in court following a US extradition request in connection with an alleged dollar 2 billion fraud scheme. File picture: Phill Magakoe/AP

The Mozambique debt heist and its conmen

By Dr André Thomashausen Time of article published May 20, 2019

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Nobody expects a thief to be a truthful person. Yet the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) in Pretoria in the Magistrates Court on 8 April 2019 gullibly accepted and stated to the Court that the parliamentary immunity for extradition detainee Manuel Chang had been lifted in Mozambique. They relied on a written assurance to that effect from the Head of the Mozambique prosecuting authority. The assurance is deliberately misleading and therefore false.

Chang (63) was Mozambique’s Minister of Finance of Mozambique from 2005 until 2015. He notoriously instructed Swiss bankers Credit Suisse in an official government letter to pay out a 2 billion Euro loan not to the Mozambique Central Bank but into the bank account of commercial broker in Abu Dhabi. 

In return for 2 billion Euro, Mozambique was supplied with 21 long liner tuna and 3 trawler (bait) fishing boats, each 23.5 metres short. None of these boats were suited to operate in the oceans of the so-called Mozambique channel, nor is long liner tuna fishing still allowed, meaning catch obtained by these fishing boats could not be sold. 

The 24 fishing boats can be valued at a maximum of 50 Million USD. In addition to the fishing boats that have never been put into operation and are rusting away in Maputo harbour, Mozambique received 6 small fibreglass fast patrol boats. The hulls of these craft will burst into flames when hit by a high velocity bullet, sinking their powerful engines, crew and single gun within minutes. At 36 m length with a crew of only 4, they are unsuited to operate outside immediate shorelines. Their combined commercial value is a maximum of 100 million USD. 

Because private investors subscribed to sovereign bonds for Mozambique to be able to raise a 2 billion Euro loan of which about 1.8 billion cannot be accounted for, prosecutors in the USA undertook extensive investigations. They decided to criminally prosecute the principal conmen for fraud, theft and money laundering. Former Minister of Finance Chang figures prominently amongst them and was detained in South Africa end of December 2018 on the basis of a US extradition request.

After years of inactivity, the Mozambique prosecuting authority all of a sudden and very conveniently opened an investigation into Chang’s conduct (without formerly charging him) and requested his extradition to Mozambique for questioning, arguing that this request should take priority over the earlier extradition request by the USA.

Dr André Thomashausen
In order to convince the South African Magistrates Court that the Mozambican extradition request was as valid as the American one, Mozambique issued an assurance that the Mozambique Parliament had authorised the detention of Manuel Chang, a Member of Parliament of the ruling Frelimo party.

Although it is true that the Standing Committee of Parliament in Mozambique took a resolution to authorized the detention of Member of Parliament Chang, it did so only with explicit reference to Art 13 (1) of the Act Governing Members of Parliament, Act No 32 of 2014.

The meaning of the reference to Art 13 (1) of the Act is that the immunity of Chang was not lifted. This would have had to be done by a parliamentary consent in terms of Art 17 of the same Act. As the lifting of the parliamentary immunity is a prerequisite for prosecution, it is clear that Chang may be temporarily detained for questioning, but may not be prosecuted, unless his immunity might be lifted at a later stage. 

In addition, for a successful prosecution, the Mozambique Act requires a further specific parliamentary consent, for Chang to stand trial, as is separately required by Art 13 (2) of the Act.

Evidently, the Mozambican authorities relied on the fact that the NPA in Pretoria would not check the text of the Act, and would not be alerted by the fact that the Mozambican assurance so specifically referred to a particular clause in a Portuguese language statute.

Hence, if by decision of the South African Minister of Justice, as required in the Extradition Act, Chang should in the near future be extradited to Mozambique, he may be detained on arrival for a short while, subject to the normal rules of criminal procedure, but his prosecution and possible trial barred because he continues to enjoy parliamentary immunity.

As it stands, the extradition request by Mozambique is a scam and should not have been ruled a valid extradition request.  Clearly, South Africa has no interest in acquiring a reputation for lending a helping hand to conmen and ruthlessly corrupt politicians.

Mozambique is ranked 7th last on the UNDP development index. According to the WHO, Mozambique is abandoning 60% of its children under five to stunting, as a consequence of protein deprivation and severe malnutrition. The stolen 2 billion Euro could have given each of the affected 1.5 million children an amount of 1000 Euro, or five times the average annual GPD per capita available to a Mozambican. 

That is the real dimension of what the political agents of international economic crime will do in Africa, and do to its children. Our Minister of International Relations and eager candidate for the position of Deputy President, Sisulo stated in February that “it would be the easiest thing for everybody” if Chang would be sent to Mozambique.  She evidently had not seen the Twitter post at that time by Herman J (“Henk”) Cohen, former US Undersecretary of State for Africa: “The theft of two billion by official of the Mozambique regime under former President Guebuza is probably the largest act of corruption in Africa since 1960. Frelimo is in a state of disgrace.” 

* Dr. André Thomashausen is a German Attorney and Professor Emeritus of International Law (Unisa).

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

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