Ex-Zambia president on trial for stealing £25m from country

The trial of the former Zambian president Frederick Chiluba on charges of stealing more than $43m (£25m) from state coffers got under way yesterday before a packed courtroom in the Zambian capital Lusaka.

Mr Chiluba, Zambia's first democratically elected president, is facing 169 counts ranging from theft, abuse of office, abuse of power to being part of a web of corruption stretching from Zambia to Britain, Belgium, South Africa, the United States and the Caribbean. He has denied all the charges.

At least four state witnesses gave evidence yesterday in the trial, which had been delayed for months and dismissed by Mr Chiluba as a political witch-hunt against him by the President, Levy Mwanawasa.

In court yesterday, Mr Chiluba, dressed in a beige collarless suit buttoned up to the neck, constantly sipped from a bottle of mineral water and occasionally read from a small blue Bible as the witnesses - a judge, two former civil servants and a civil engineer - gave evidence against him.

Ironically, it was Mr Chiluba, who retired last year, who plucked Mr Mwanawasa from political obscurity and imposed him as head of the ruling Movement for Multi-Party Democracy (MMD) against the wishes of many senior MMD officials, who either resigned from the party, defected to other parties or formed their own. Mr Chiluba had unsuccessfully tried to change the constitution to run for a third term.

Soon after taking office, after Mr Chiluba helped him win an election dismissed by the European Union as rigged, Mr Mwanawasa turned against his predecessor, accusing him of fleecing millions from state coffers during his decade-long tenure in power.

Yesterday Philip Musonda, a high court judge, and Austin Mweemba, a retired senior civil servant, explained before the magistrate, Jones Chinyama, how money had been stolen through fraudulent activities.

Mr Chiluba's lawyer, Robert Simeza, said the witnesses were unconvincing. He said that if the state had a genuine case, it should have brought "shocking witnesses" from the onset. The trial continues tomorrow, but Mr Simeza believes it will last for years.

The state also claims millions of pounds were diverted from state coffers into an account at a Zambian bank in London from where it was allegedly embezzled by Mr Chiluba for his personal use and those of his cronies. The former president claims the money in this account was used by the intelligence services to fund essential foreign operations.

A former Zambian chief justice who is alleged to have been bribed, with money from the account, to pass rulings in favour of Mr Chiluba has since quit. Xavier Chungu, a former intelligence chief, who is accused of running the account for Mr Chiluba, is being jointly charged. Mr Chiluba is also accused of paying millions of pounds to a Congolese arms dealer for equipment that was never delivered.

The case has become the cornerstone of President Mwanawasa's anti-corruption crusade, which has won accolades from European donors and President George Bush.

Mr Chiluba, a former bus conductor, became president in 1991, ending the 26-year rule of Kenneth Kaunda, Zambia's founding leader.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Technician / Helpdesk - 2nd / 3rd Line

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: IT Support Technician is requir...

Recruitment Genius: Application Developer

£20000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Based in the centre of Glasgow,...

Recruitment Genius: Production Engineering Manager

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Joinery Shop Foreman

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Joinery Shop Foreman is required to join a p...

Day In a Page

Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor
The ZX Spectrum has been crowd-funded back into play - with some 21st-century tweaks

The ZX Spectrum is back

The ZX Spectrum was the original - and for some players, still the best. David Crookes meets the fans who've kept the games' flames lit
Grace of Monaco film panned: even the screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman

Even the screenwriter pours scorn on Grace of Monaco biopic

The critics had a field day after last year's premiere, but the savaging goes on
Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people used to believe about periods

Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people once had about periods

If one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
The best work perks: From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)

The quirks of work perks

From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)
Is bridge the latest twee pastime to get hip?

Is bridge becoming hip?

The number of young players has trebled in the past year. Gillian Orr discovers if this old game has new tricks
Long author-lists on research papers are threatening the academic work system

The rise of 'hyperauthorship'

Now that academic papers are written by thousands (yes, thousands) of contributors, it's getting hard to tell workers from shirkers
The rise of Lego Clubs: How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships

The rise of Lego Clubs

How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships
5 best running glasses

On your marks: 5 best running glasses

Whether you’re pounding pavements, parks or hill passes, keep your eyes protected in all weathers
Joe Root: 'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

Joe Root says the England dressing room is a happy place again – and Stokes is the catalyst
Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

Please save my husband

As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada