Mozambique’s former finance minister, Manuel Chang, will remain in custody – at least for the next 60 days.
Chang, who is implicated in an international corruption scandal, was denied bail on Wednesday for the second time following his arrest at OR Tambo International Airport late last month. Chang had been on his way to Dubai when South African police, acting on a request from Interpol and US investigators, took him in.
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Chang and four other suspects, including three former Credit Suisse bankers, were indicted by a New York court last month. They are accused of orchestrating a $2-billion scheme which was supposed to revitalize Mozambique’s fishing industry, but which instead plunged the economy into chaos.
Read amaBhungane’s full story on the scandal here and listen to an interview with amaBhungane’s Susan Comrie about it here.
The US authorities want Chang and the London-based bankers extradited to stand trial in the US for charges ranging from fraud to money laundering.
On Wednesday, Chang’s advocate tried to persuade the Kempton Park magistrate’s court that his client’s arrest was unlawful because US authorities had not filed an extradition request when the arrest took place. Magistrate Sagra Subroyen disagreed, but set a time limit of 60 days for the US investigators to file a formal request.
At least one of Chang’s pleas was answered though; he will be spending the next 60 days in his own cell rather than in the crowded general cells at Modderbee prison. Chang’s advocate told the court that his client – once one of the most powerful men in Mozambique – had been forced to pay protection money to the leader of the cell just to ensure his safety.
This is a significant step down for a man that US authorities claim received $5-million in kickbacks paid into a bank account in Spain.