Former Mozambique finance minister Manuel Chang was arrested in South Africa on a US warrant for allegedly receiving bribes to facilitate a $2 billion fraud scheme. Picture: Nhlanhla Phillips/African News Agency (ANA)

Pretoria - The extradition of former Mozambique finance minister and member of parliament Manuel Chang to Mozambique has been halted "by a new set of facts", the justice and correctional services ministry said on Saturday.

Chang is reportedly wanted in connection with alleged fraudulent loans to state companies in Mozambique. He was reportedly arrested at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg in December last year and held at the request of United States authorities wanting him to be extradited to the US.

Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola had authorised the department's director general Vusi Madonsela to file papers "in response to Mr Manuel Chang's urgent application to be surrendered to the Mozambique authorities", the ministry said in a statement. 

"The minister also received additional papers from a Mozambican NGO seeking review of the Kempton Park Magistrate's Court that found Mr Chang is extraditable to Mozambique. Upon legal advice, the minister decided not to oppose the application. 

"The department filed its own application on the same matter, placing before the court new information that only emerged after the former minister [Michael Masutha] had decided to extradite Mr Chang to Mozambique. Such information pertains to double immunity that Mr Chang enjoys in terms of Mozambican law," the statement said.

Such immunities appeared to suggest that any extradition to Mozambique would contravene the Southern African Development Community (SADC) protocol, the South African Constitution, and the Extradition Act. As such the previous decision may not be legally permissible. 

"The South African Extradition Act also requires that the person to be extradited should have been charged for the crimes he is alleged to have committed. In Mr Chang case it is not the case since his immunities were not yet lifted. It is for the above reasons that the minister authorised the director general to oppose Mr Chang's application. 

"The department has therefore approached the court to take into account the new information viz-a-vis the former minister's decision. The minister will be guided by the outcomes of the three applications on what action to take. He has further expressed his confidence in the South African judiciary,  describing it as robust, objective and independent," the statement said.

African News Agency/ANA