09/01/2019 Former Mozambique finance Minister Manuel Chang is arrested in South Africa on US warrent for allegedly receiving bribes to facilitie a $2 billion fraud scheme. He appeared at the Kempton Park Magistrate Court. Picture: Nhlanhla Phillips/African News Agency/ANA

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Magistrate rules arrest and detention of Mozambique finance minister is legal

JOHANNESBURG, January 9  – A Kempton Park magistrate ruled in favour of the state on Wednesday afternoon saying that the arrest warrant issued against Mozambique Finance Minister Manuel Chang was legal, after hours of argument and counter-argument between Chang’s defence lawyer and the state prosecutor.

The United States is busy working on a formal extradition document to have Chang brought to the US to face charges over allegations of fraudulent loans involving $2 billion, together with a number of other co-conspirators.

Chang oversaw Mozambique’s finances when it allegedly failed to disclose government guarantees for $2 billion in international borrowing by state-owned firms and has been in detention since December 29 after an arrest warrant was issued by a Pretoria magistrate.

On Wednesday, a humid and packed Kempton Park Magistrate’s Court – filled with Interpol officials, local and international media, police in combat fatigues and armed with automatic weapons, and Mozambique Embassy officials amongst others – listened in detail for hours as defence lawyer, Willie Vermeulen, and state prosecutor, Elivera Dreyer, debated the legality of the arrest warrant.

As Dreyer and Vermeulen went into the minutiae of the laws surrounding extradition, the latter asserted that arresting Chang based on the provisional arrest warrant originally issued was unlawful because the US had not sent an official extradition request in writing to South Africa and hadn’t followed the country’s extradition laws.

But Dreyer told the African News Agency (ANA) that as per the extradition treaty between the US and South Africa the arrest was legal and South Africa had incorporated subsequent legislation into the law governing extradition.

“It’s a complex matter especially when high-profile individuals are involved. Mozambique has no extradition treaty with the US so when Chang was in South Africa it became a matter of urgency to have him arrested,” Dreyer explained.

The state prosecutor also told the court that an official extradition can take up to 60 days legally and that American officials are currently working on sending the full documentation package to South Africa, before adding that the initial provisional request sent by the Americans was accompanied by a sworn affidavit provided to the Pretoria magistrate by an American official involved in prosecuting Chang.

Another of Vermeulen’s arguments was that the arrest warrant sent by the US was compromised due to missing information and being censored.

Dreyer countered that a second warrant has been issued with the missing information added and that while the names of two co-defendants on the run were still missing this was because Interpol was trying to track them down and releasing their names would give them a heads-up as they attempt to escape justice.

After ruling in favour of the state, the magistrate adjourned the court to decide on whether Chang is to be released on bail. (ANA)

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