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Zambia’s Sata claims political meddling in Chiluba acquittal

Zambia’s opposition on Tuesday accused President Rupiah Banda of interfering in the courts to secure the acquittal of former leader Frederick Chiluba in a long-running corruption case.

Michael Sata, the main opposition leader, accused Banda of seeking to win over Chiluba supporters ahead of 2011 elections by meddling in the case to clear the name of the former leader.

Chiluba on Monday was cleared in court of charges that he embezzled $500 000 in state funds during his 10 years in office.

Two of his business associates were convicted and each sentenced to three years in prison in the same trial, while his wife, Regina, has also been convicted of accepting state property as gifts.

”Banda influenced the judiciary, because how can Chiluba’s wife, who only received the gifts, be jailed leaving out the man who was distributing?” Sata said.

Chiluba has already been convicted in 2007 in a British court of stealing nearly $50-million of state funds along with former aides.

The British court found that while Chiluba officially earned about $100 000 during his 10 years in power, he paid more than $1-million to an exclusive Swiss boutique for expensive suits.

Zambia’s government last year began efforts to register the British judgement locally to begin recovering the money. Chiluba has argued that the British ruling should not apply in Zambia, accusing ”imperialists” of plotting against him.

Banda has defended Chiluba’s record as the six-year trial has unfolded, last month calling him a ”damn good president who should not be treated as a leper even if he was convicted”. — AFP



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