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Zambia Ex-President Banda Arrested on Abuse of Power

Zambia's former President Rupiah Banda
Zambia's former President Rupiah Banda arrives at the Drug Enforcement Commission in Lusaka where he was summoned for questioning. Photographer: Joseph Mwenda/AFP via Getty Images

March 25 (Bloomberg) -- Former Zambian President Rupiah Banda was arrested and charged with abuse of authority in connection with the sale of Nigerian oil when he was in office.

Banda, 76, was released on 500,000 kwacha ($93,000) bail after surrendering his passport and will appear in court tomorrow, Namukolo Kasumpa, a spokeswoman for the Government Joint Investigative Team, said today. Investigators will resume questioning Banda on April 4.

“He totally denies any wrongdoing,” Sakwiba Sikota, Banda’s lawyer, said today by mobile phone. “He will be vindicated by the court.”

Justice Minister Wynter Kabimba read out a list of allegations against Banda in Parliament on March 15, including “abuse of authority of office, fraud and misappropriation of public funds,” leading lawmakers in Africa’s largest copper producer to remove his immunity. Banda became president in 2008 after Levy Mwanawasa died, and he was elected later that year.

Banda’s government diverted money from the sale of Nigerian crude oil into a separate bank account instead of the National Treasury, Kabimba said in his statement to parliament.

The Lusaka-based High Court will hear an application on March 27 from Banda that seeks to declare the lifting of his immunity illegal and unconstitutional, Sikota said. Banda’s lawyers will ask the Magistrate’s court tomorrow to delay hearing the criminal case until the superior court has ruled, he said.

‘Witch-Hunt’

“It’s not that he’s afraid of the criminal proceedings, but it’s out of principle that it shouldn’t go ahead” until a judge has ruled on the civil case, Sikota said.

Zambia’s kwacha fell 0.7 percent, the most in almost a week, to 5.395 against the dollar by 6:06 p.m. in Lusaka. Yields on Zambia’s Eurobond were little changed at 5.4031 percent.

Banda also faces allegations of using government money to buy campaign material, as well as using offshore accounts to fund “opaque transactions” that indicate money laundering, according to Kabimba’s statement. Government investigators have questioned Banda three times since Parliament removed his immunity.

“They’ve rushed these charges which are completely bogus,” Robert Amsterdam, a lawyer for the former head of state, said by mobile-phone interview today from Washington. “It’s all completely political.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Matthew Hill in Lusaka at mhill58@bloomberg.net; Andres R. Martinez in Johannesburg at amartinez28@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net

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