Malawi vice president arrested by anti-corruption bureau

Malawi's Vice President Saulos Chilima was stripped of his powers in June [File: Eldson Chagara/Reuters]

VP Saulos Chilima is accused of accepting money and other items in exchange for awarding government contracts.

Malawi’s Anti-Corruption Bureau has arrested the country’s Vice President Saulos Chilima over corruption allegations, it said on Friday.

Chilima is accused of accepting money and other items in exchange for awarding government contracts, the ACB said in a statement.

The vice president would be taken to court where he is expected to be charged with three counts of corrupt practices by a public officer, among other charges, the corruption watchdog added.

Footage from local media showed supporters of Chilima and the police seemingly in a scuffle as he was being taken into court for the formal reading of charges.

“I have no comment to make. We will let the court process run its course,” Chilima told reporters outside court after being granted bail, according to media.

The ACB statement said Chilima was rewarded for assisting Xaviar Limited and Malachitte FZE, two companies linked to British businessman Zuneth Sattar, to win contracts.

The watchdog has been investigating Sattar and other public officers in Malawi over alleged plundering of state resources by influencing awarding of contracts through the country’s public procurement system, it said.

The ACB arrested Chilima “on allegation that between March 2021 and October 2021, he received advantage in form of money” amounting to $280,000 and other items “from Zuneth Sattar as a reward”, its statement said.

In August, the Financial Times reported that Sattar was under investigation by the United Kingdom’s National Crime Agency (NCA) over alleged abuse of Malawi’s public procurement system. He had not been charged with any offence and denied wrongdoing, the report said.

NCA did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday, and Sattar could not be reached, the Reuters news agency said.

Earlier this year, Malawi’s President Lazarus Chakwera dissolved his entire cabinet on charges of corruption against three serving ministers. Several ministers and former ministers have already been arrested in connection with this case, in which 53 public officials have been accused of receiving money from Sattar between March and October 2021.

In June this year, Chakwera stripped Chilima of all powers after the latter was first named in corruption allegations by the ACB. According to Malawi’s constitution, the president could not suspend or remove Chilima because he was an elected official.

In 2020, Chilima partnered with Chakwera to win the presidential election re-run, sweeping to victory on an anti-corruption platform.



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