Zambia?s, former first lady Regina Chiluba has been charged with graft improprieties. She is accused of illegally receiving stolen state property and funds from her husband when he was president. Yesterday?s revelations came as the country prepared to celebrate its forty-second independence anniversary today. The charges have prompted wide condemnation from supporters of the former leader, who claim president Mwanawasa is harassing Chiluba for his open support of opposition candidate Michael Sata during last month?s tripartite elections. Mrs. Chiluba has been summoned to appear in court one week from Friday.
Emmanuel Mwamba is spokesman for the Chiluba family. He spoke with VOA English to Africa reporter Peter Clottey about the charges against the former First Lady.
?They called here for an interview this morning. The call out stated that they wanted her for an interview. But when we reached there, they informed us that she was going to be arrested formally for her properties in Ndola in the Copper Belt. She has some properties, about six houses and some money in her bank account, which she had since 2002, then her motor vehicles and one TV set. So she was given four counts of charges and the charges are stating that she received these monies and properties that are deemed to have been stolen or obtained unlawfully,? he said.
Mwamba says the former First Lady is always known to be a businesswoman who made a lot of money through her business.
?Mrs. Regina Chiluba was a businesswoman of high repute on the Copper Belt. She owned some restaurants, so it?s not strange that she had properties. And most of the properties are properties she bought from the local authorities. So you buy them relatively very cheap; its not that she bought executive houses. They are just ordinary houses which civil servants and other ordinary workers could afford,? he noted.
Mwamba explains former President Chiluba?s reaction.
?Dr. Chiluba is deeply disturbed by this development for two reasons: One, he says the charges against Mrs. Chiluba are premature because no one has been found guilty?, especially Dr. Chiluba who it?s said to have given these monies for her to purchase these properties. Dr. Chiluba is still free, he hasn?t been found guilty by any competent court in Lusaka or elsewhere. So he says the charges are premature designed to harass him. Number two; he is not surprised by this action because politicians in the MMD (ruling Movement For Multiparty Democracy) has warned him that if President Mwanawasa was re-elected they were going to ensure that his life is made difficult because he had supported the opposition leader, Mr. Michael Sata,? Mwamba said.
He says the former First Lady maintains her innocence.
?Mrs. Chiluba says she is not guilty of these charges, she has denied committing any offence. She says she obtained these properties and money lawfully, in a manner that is not criminal in anyway. And she is going to defend these charges vigorously as she has been summoned to court on third Novemeber 2006, a day after the two, Dr. and Mrs. Chiluba, are supposed to leave for South Africa for Dr. Chiluba?s medical treatment. So I don?t know how this will even affect Dr. Chiluba?s medical treatment in South Africa,? he said.
Mwamba says the former First Lady was arrested, charged and then released yesterday.
?They charged and arrested her and she was released on a fifty million Kwacha bond (that is about 10,000 Dollars). This bond was not cash; it was done in her own recognizance with two working in sureties. She did not need to pay actual cash, but these are monies that they can take in case she moves away from the jurisdiction,? he said.
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