Mozambique withdrew appeals against a South African court decision not to extradite its former finance minister, Manuel Chang, wanted in relation to a $2 billion debt scandal that plunged his country’s economy into crisis.
Chang, who denies wrongdoing, was arrested in South Africa in December at the request of the United States with Mozambique requesting extradition, sparking a legal battle over where he should be sent.
The Mozambique Attorney General’s Office said in a statement it would withdraw its appeals at both South Africa’s Constitutional Court and Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) to allow South African Justice Minister Ronald Lamola, who now has the final call, time to re-examine the case.
The Constitutional Court is the highest court in the country, dealing exclusively with constitutional matters, while the SCA is the highest court when it comes to other cases.
Last year, South Africa’s then justice minister, Michael Masutha, said Chang should be surrendered to Mozambique. A South African High Court ruled in November the decision should be set aside and reviewed by the new minister, Lamola.
The US charges relate to loans from Credit Suisse and Russia’s VTB bank, guaranteed by the Mozambican government but in some cases not disclosed, Chang signed off on during his 2005-2015 term as finance minister.
Their disclosure in 2016 prompted foreign donors including the International Monetary Fund to cut off support for Mozambique, triggering a currency collapse and debt default.
Mozambique has not formally charged Chang, prompting civil society organisations to argue he should be sent to the US.