Lamola holds former Mozambique finance minister's extradition fate in his hands after High Court ruling

2019-11-01 10:24
Manuel Chang, former finance minister of Mozambique. (Wikus de Wet, AFP)

Manuel Chang, former finance minister of Mozambique. (Wikus de Wet, AFP)

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The Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg on Friday effectively ruled that Justice Minister Ronald Lamola should decide anew whether to extradite former Mozambique finance minister Manuel Chang to either the United States or his home country.

Chang is wanted by the US in connection with allegations of conspiracy to commit fraud and taking millions of dollars in bribes in a $2bn loan scandal, News24 previously reported.

The ruling comes after the court heard arguments on October 16, 2019 in an application Chang lodged to compel Lamola to give effect to his predecessor's decision to extradite him to that country, instead of the United States.

But, in a counter-application, Lamola asked that Minister Michael Masutha's decision be reviewed and set aside on the basis that it was contrary to the provisions of the Extradition Act.

During Masutha's term, Chang faced extradition requests from both the US and Mozambique - where he enjoyed automatic immunity as a lawmaker - until it was lifted in January.

READ: Mozambique lifts immunity of ex minister held in SA

Masutha decided to have Chang extradited to his home country, Mozambique - not the United States.

In his reasoning he cited that "the interests of justice will be best served by acceding to the request by the Republic of Mozambique," News24 previously reported.

ALSO READ: Manuel Chang to be extradited from SA to Mozambique, not US

His decision followed a ruling from the Kempton Park Magistrate's court on April 8, 2019 - pending the justice minister's decisions - that Chang should be extradited to the US.

The Helen Suzman Foundation told the court that Lamola was correct to seek a review because South Africa is constitutionally obliged to ensure the effective prosecution of corruption even if the offence occurs outside of its borders.

A friend of the court, Mozambican NGO Forum de Monitoria do Orcamento also told the High Court that the ruling from a magistrate as well as the former justice minister's decision should be set aside and reviewed, News24 previously reported.

"The forum submits that the decision by the magistrate to commit Chang, in terms of Section 10(1) of the Extradition Act, to imprisonment pending the minister's decision to surrender Chang in respect of the extradition request by Mozambique is declared to be inconsistent with the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa. It is invalid and should be set aside," advocate Anton Katz SC previously argued.

The former finance minister was arrested at OR Tambo International Airport on December 29 while on his way to Dubai last year.

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