US 'expects' South Africa to hand over ex-Mozambique minister
The United States said Tuesday it expects South Africa to hand over Maputo's ex-finance minister, held since December on a US warrant over corruption allegations - despite a separate request from Mozambique.
Manuel Chang, 63, was arrested at Johannesburg's main airport on December 29 over alleged involvement in $2 billion (R28.75 billion) of fraudulent loans to Mozambican state firms.
Both the US and Mozambique have issued their own extradition requests over the scandal that has shaken the poor southern African country.
US Assistant Secretary of State Tibor Nagy said he expected Pretoria to honour the extradition accord it signed in September 1999.
"We have an extradition treaty with South Africa, we are very much expecting (extradition) will happen," Nagy told journalists during a phone briefing.
"The US expects South Africa to respond by extraditing Mr Chang to the United States."
A South African court is considering the complex law applicable to the conflicting demands and will consider Chang's case on March 18.
However, last month South African Foreign Minister Lindiwe Sisulu indicated that Chang would be handed to Maputo as it would be "the easiest thing for everybody".
"We're sending him to Mozambique to be tried," Sisulu told South Africa's Daily Maverick news site.
"As soon as we are done with the Interpol case, we will allow Mozambique to have their former minister back," she added.
The charges against Chang relate to loans taken out by Maputo when he was head of treasury between 2005 and 2015.
The money was allegedly used to secretly buy a tuna-fishing fleet and surveillance ships.
The former minister had enjoyed automatic immunity as a lawmaker but was stripped of the privilege as details of the scandal have emerged.
Mozambique has since also arrested several suspects linked to the debt scandal, including the son of ex-president Armando Guebuza, along with leading intelligence officials.
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