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Zambia's ex-ruler on corruption charge

Police in Zambia arrested the country's former president, Frederick Chiluba, yesterday on charges of stealing more than $40m (£24.8m) during his decade in office.

Mr Chiluba's lawyer, Robert Simeza, confirmed that the former ruler had been charged, along with the former intelligence chief Xavier Chungu and three former Treasury officials, on 96 counts of theft of public money. They stand accused of transferring the funds into a secret British bank account.

"He feels that he will be cleared once and for all," Mr Simeza said yesterday. "It is not possible for a president to steal money which is being transferred from the Ministry of Finance to an account for intelligence service operations."

Mr Chiluba's arrest marks the conclusion to a string of corruption investigations launched against him at the behest of his successor, President Levy Mwanawasa. The largest crackdown on corruption since the country gained its independence from Britain in 1964 has led to the prosecution of the former president, several former ministers and senior government officials.

The former ruler was stripped of his immunity from prosecution last September in a landmark ruling by the Supreme Court.

Mr Chiluba, a born-again Christian, had charges of theft against him dropped in dubious circumstances in June after police raids on his home last September.

He accuses President Mwanawasa of launching a witch-hunt against him in order to divert attention from his own government's problems.

Mr Chiluba led Zambia for 10 years after defeating Kenneth Kaunda in the 1991 elections. After two terms in office he was barred by the constitution from running again.

He is due to appear in court on 29 August.