Former Mozambican finance minister Manuel Chang, who had approved secret loans that plunged his country into financial crisis, was arrested in South Africa for extradition to the United States, police said on Monday.

Mr. Chang, 63, “was arrested on Saturday (…) for extradition to the United States” and “appears today (Monday) in Kempton Park Court”, near Johannesburg International Airport Tambo, told AFP a spokesman for the National Police, Vishnu Naidoo.

The police did not give further details, but according to the Mozambican media, Mr. Chang was arrested at the airport while in transit for Dubai.

According to a document dated December 27 asking the South African police to arrest him for possible extradition to the United States, the former minister is wanted for conspiracy for purposes of “online scam”, “Insurance fraud” and “money laundering”.

Mr. Chang was Minister of Finance between 2005 and 2015, under the presidency of Armando Guebuza. It was towards the end of this mandate that loans worth two billion dollars (about 1.75 billion euros) had been secretly negotiated and signed.

This hidden debt had precipitated Mozambique in its worst financial crisis since gaining independence in 1975.

By the end of 2017, the debt had reached 112% of gross domestic product ( GDP ), forcing the country to suspend its repayments and causing investors to be suspicious.

Donors, including the International Monetary Fund ( IMF ) and the World Bank, suspended aid to Mozambique after the government admitted to secretly borrowing $ 2 billion to fund a coastal rescue plan.

A spokesman for former President Armando Guebuza, Armindo Chavana, blamed the government for failing to protect Mr. Chang.

“The Mozambican authorities had information about the arrest warrant but they did nothing to protect the former minister,” he told Maputo.

A Mozambican diplomatic source in South Africa told AFP that Chang briefly appeared on Monday in court and that the hearing would resume on January 8 in Pretoria.

AFP