Malawi vice president arrested on corruption charges, says graft watchdog

Saulos Klaus Chilima was stripped of his powers in June when he was first accused of corruption

Malawi's Vice President Saulos Klaus Chilima arrives at a polling station in Lilongwe in May last year. Reuters
Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

Malawi's Anti-Corruption Bureau has arrested and charged Vice President Saulos Klaus Chilima on graft charges, it said on Friday, following months of investigation into his conduct.

In a national address in June, Malawi's President Lazarus Chakwera stripped Mr Chilima of his powers when the watchdog first accused him of corruption.

But at that time, the president — who has waged a crackdown on corruption — said he had no constitutional authority to suspend or remove the vice president from office. He did, however, bar him from carrying out his duties.

Mr Chilima has been taken to court to face the charges, the corruption watchdog said in a statement.

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

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

The watchdog claimed Mr Chilima was rewarded for assisting Xaviar Limited and Malachitte FZE, two companies connected to British businessman Zuneth Sattar, in being awarded contracts by the Malawi government.

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

“On 25 November, 2022, the Anti-Corruption Bureau arrested Dr Saulos Klaus 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,” the agency said.

In August, The Financial Times reported that Mr Sattar was under investigation by Britain'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 FT said.

NCA did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday. Reuters could not immediately reach Mr Sattar for comment.

In January this year, Mr Chakwera dissolved his entire cabinet following charges of corruption against three serving ministers.

Updated: November 25, 2022, 6:27 PM