Mozambique's former finance minister, Manuel Chang. Picture: Nicholas Kamm/AFP

Durban - Manuel Chang, a former minister of finance in Mozambique, appeared in a South African court on Tuesday facing charges of wire fraud, money laundering and securities fraud.

Chang was arrested on Saturday and appeared in the Kempton Park Magistrate’s Court in Johannesburg on Tuesday.

He will remain in custody until January 8, until his next court hearing.

He was arrested on the strength of an Interpol Red Notice issued by United States authorities seeking Chang’s extradition.

According to AFP, Chang was finance minister between 2005 and 2015, under the presidency of Armando Guebuza.

It is, however, unclear what crimes he is accused of committing.

However, during his tenure, he oversaw the signing of several secret loans valued at US$2-billion to fund a coastal protection plan finalized between 2013/14 with the creation of three companies called  Empresa Moçambicana de Atum (Ematum), Proindicus and Mozambique Asset Management (MAM).

The procurement of the loans, effectively driven by the country’s security services, bypassed all regulatory oversight.

The debt was kept secret by Guebuza’s successor, Filipe Nyusi, who had also served as minister of defence in Guebuza’s cabinet until 2016.

The hidden debt plunged impoverished Mozambique into crisis, with debt rising to 112 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) by the end of 2017.

This hidden debt led the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to suspend lending to Mozambique and all 14 donors and funding agencies that used to provide direct support to the Mozambican state budget, and the IMF also suspended all disbursement.

In January 2018, Reuters reported that Mozambique’s Attorney General filed a legal complaint against officials and state-owned companies involved in securing the loans and that the deals violated Mozambique’s constitution. The complaint was filed with the country’s administrative court, which focuses on public financial accountability.

African News Agency (ANA)