Mozambique drops appeal in South Africa over former minister


MAPUTO, Mozambique (AP) — The Mozambican attorney general’s office on Monday withdrew its appeal to South African courts to have former Finance Minister Manuel Chang extradited back home amid a massive debt scandal.

Chang faces trial in the United States and in Mozambique for his involvement in the “hidden debts” scandal in which the southern African nation borrowed $2.2 billion for three state-linked security companies to buy boats and hardware from Lebanese ship-building group Privinvest.

The decision to drop the appeal aims at speeding up a decision by South African Justice Minister Ronald Lamola. The Mozambican attorney general’s office still hopes he will decide to extradite Chang to Mozambique rather than to the U.S., which requested his arrest and extradition in late 2018.

Lamola won the right to reconsider a decision taken by his predecessor to extradite Chang to Mozambique despite the lack of an extradition treaty between South Africa and Mozambique — and, crucially, despite Chang’s immunity as a member of parliament.

The attorney general’s office has spent more than $1.6 million to have a South African law firm argue that the previous justice minister’s decision be respected. The Mozambican civil society consortium FMO, however, wants to see Chang face trial in the U.S.

One of Chang’s co-defendants in the U.S. case, Privinvest’s Jean Boustani, was acquitted of the charges he faced in November.

In Mozambique, a number of defendants are in jail awaiting trial. The attorney general’s office said Monday that Chang’s absence is holding up those cases, and it hoped its decision to drop it appeals in South Africa would speed up a decision there.