Mozambican Ex-Minister Faces US Trial Over ‘Tuna’ Scam – OpEd


By Lisa Vives

A former government minister reputed to have orchestrated the embezzlement of over two billion dollars and the fabrication of a daring conspiracy whose victims were Swiss bankers, American investors and global lenders, has been extradited to the U.S. where it is hoped that justice will be served.

With the money he obtained from allegedly committing fraud and money laundering, the ex-minister from Mozambique, Manuel Chang, claimed he was going to buy a tuna fish factory for his very poor country with borrowed money—about two billion dollars.

Chang won over American investors, the political elite, Swiss bankers, and the current Mozambican president, Felipe Nyusi. Three Credit Suisse bankers signed on as did Russian lender VTB.

Some money was indeed used to buy ships and other things related to the project. However, the ships were never used and are rotting away in Mozambique’s ports. Also, they were not bought at normal prices but at hugely inflated prices.

The promised benefits for Mozambique were not realized at all. There was no added value. Instead, a huge mountain of debt was created. The cost so far is about USD 11 billion or the country’s entire gross domestic product in a year.

The economic consequences will cost many people their lives, or already have.

Now, after sitting in a jail in South Africa since December 2018, Mr. Chang has another place to go—a prison in the U.S. where he is expected to await charges in the US relating to loans obtained from Credit Suisse and Russia’s VTB bank that were guaranteed by the Mozambican government.

The son of Mozambique’s former president received a 12-year jail sentence over the $2.2 billion fishing project scandal that triggered an economic crisis in the country.

Chang, accused of receiving bribes of up to $18 million, has pleaded not guilty in a federal court in New York.

The former minister had fought his extradition to the U.S. and the Mozambican government’s own attempts to have Chang face trial in Mozambique. Some groups had opposed his return to his country because of concerns he would likely be treated leniently.

He has also been denied bail. The judge, citing the amount of money involved and the gravity of the charges, agreed with prosecutors that he could be a flight risk.

At least 10 people have already been convicted and sentenced to prison by a Mozambican court over the scandal, including Ndambi Guebuza, the son of former Mozambican president Armando Guebuza who was sentenced to 12 years in prison for receiving up to $33 million from the corrupt deal. 

The consequences of the crime “will last generations”, the judge said.


IDN-InDepthNews offers news analyses and viewpoints on topics that impact the world and its peoples. IDN-InDepthNews serves as the flagship of the International Press Syndicate Group

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