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In Malawi, Fraud Charges Against Bakili Muluzi are Dropped


In Malawi, state prosecutors say they are dropping charges against former president Bakili Muluzi. The move comes following the suspension of Gustav Kaliwo, the country's top anti-corruption official. Upon his departure, no one was instructed to investigate the case in his place. Muluzi, who ruled Malawi from 1994 to 2004, was held briefly for questioning last week about allegations that he diverted millions of dollars in government funds into his own bank account and that of his party. The arrest was seen as part of a broader anti-corruption drive launched by his successor, President Bingu wa Mutharika, who has taken on powerful members of Muluzi's inner circle since assuming office in 2004. Fahad Assani is the lead attorney for Bakili Muluzi. From the capital, Lilongwe, he spoke with VOA English to Africa reporter Peter Clottey about the case.

“On Monday…a decision [was made] to discontinue the charges which were leveled against the former president and that this morning when we were supposed to appear in court would not actually be pursued. That being the case, it means matters, as of now, have come to an end and we’ll see what holds for the future.”

Assani says his client was perturbed by the charges brought against him.

“Our client…of course he’s been quite unhappy about the accusations that were made against him on finances that were given to him in his individual capacity by the outside world in support of his campaign during the 1999, 2002, as well as 2004 elections.”

But he says since the charges were dropped, the former president has been feeling better.

“Now that the dropping has been done by the…prosecutions, and the story that was made yesterday in the media that the dropping is permanent, it has actually made him quite relieved. We have yet to see whether that has been done in good faith.”

Muluzi’s lawyer says a future trial cannot be ruled out.

“That cannot be entirely ruled out because the media here in Malawi has been saying that the whole problem is about the timing. Because the government was having extremely rough time in the parliament to pass the budget…because of that problem, the state did move very quickly as well to ease off this tension by ensuring that the charges are dropped immediately. So if it is really a fact, then we might still have to prepare…. But if that’s not the view of the government…then maybe this would be coming to finality.”

Assani says that they will be approaching the Anti-corruption Bureau to recover Muluzi’s seized belongings.

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