Former Mozambican finance minister Manuel Chang, accused of helping orchestrate a financial corruption scandal in which he defrauded American investors, was extradited to the United States on Wednesday to face charges in federal district court.
The New York Times reports that Chang denied all wrongdoing upon his extradition.
He was transferred to the custody of US officials and left South Africa from Lanseria Airport, north of Johannesburg.
Chang was wanted in the US and also in Mozambique for alleged conspiracy to commit fraud and for allegedly accepting millions of dollars in bribes. The alleged violations are related to a $2 billion loan scandal that also involves two international banks.
The loans were hidden from the Mozambican parliament, but the debt came to light in 2016, after which donors, including the IMF and the World Bank, were requested to withdraw financial support.
Chang – who signed off on the loans and lost an extradition battle earlier this year – is accused of using the US financial system to carry out the fraudulent scheme.
He was arrested in December 2018 at OR Tambo International Airport. He was on his way to the United Arab Emirates.
Mozambican officials fought to have him extradited back to the country to face charges there, but civil society organizations pushed for his extradition to America, arguing that Chang would get preferential treatment from his political allies in his home country.
South African officials agreed to return Chang to Mozambique, but a South African court overturned the decision and ordered his extradition to the United States, where he is expected to appear in federal court in Brooklyn.
“We want Chang to speak in a court where he is not treated as a king and where he is treated like an ordinary citizen, which would not be the case in Mozambique,” says Adriano Nuvunga, the chairman of Fórum de Monitoria do Orçamento, a civil society group based in Mozambique’s capital, Maputo.
The group filed the court challenges that eventually led to Chang being transferred to the United States.
The forum hopes that a trial of Chang in the United States will eventually help track down the roughly half a billion dollars still unaccounted for and identify who Chang gave the orders to sign those illegal bonds, Nuvunga says .