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Court: Ex-Zambian leader stole millions
by Raphael G. Satter
The Associated Press Translate This Article
5 May 2007
LONDON (AP) - A British court found Zambia's first democratically elected president guilty of stealing $46 million in government funds Friday and ordered him to repay the entire sum.
Frederick Chiluba, president of the impoverished southern African nation from 1991-2001, took the funds from state coffers with the help of top aides and two British law firms, High Court Justice Peter Smith said.
The attorney general's office in Zambia opted to pursue the case in a British court, rather than at home, because much of the stolen money was laundered through London.
``He has defrauded the republic,'' Smith said. ``He has deprived the people over whom he was exercising stewardship on their behalf of huge sums of money which was supposed to be spent for their benefit.''
The judge pointed out that while the former president had officially earned a total salary of just $105,000 over his 10 years in office, he had managed to pay an exclusive tailor's shop in Geneva $1.2 million. All of that money, Smith said, had been stolen.
``The people of Zambia should know that whenever he appears in public wearing some of these clothes, he acquired them with money stolen from them,'' he said.
Chiluba still lives in Zambia and was not present at the hearing. His spokesman in Zambia rejected the verdict. ``The court has no jurisdiction over Zambian affairs,'' Emmanuel Mwamba said.
Chiluba served as leader of Zambia's first democratically elected government following 27 years of one-party rule by Kenneth Kaunda. He had promised to introduce political freedoms and overhaul Zambia's debt-ridden, centrally planned economy. Instead, he oversaw corruption-ridden privatizations that failed to improve the lives of Zambia's 10 million residents.
The extent of the corruption became apparent after Chiluba left office. He went on trial in Zambia in 2003, accused of 169 counts of corruption, abuse of power and theft, but was declared unfit to stand trial on the grounds of ill health.
Zambia's attorney general then took the case to London, demanding that Chiluba and several of his top aides—including the former head of Zambia's intelligence agency and the former Zambian ambassador to the United States—repay the stolen money.
Chiluba and many of his aides cooperated with the trial in its early stages, agreeing to give testimony by videophone from Zambia. They withdrew their participation in June.
While Chiluba's British-based assets were ordered frozen in 2004 and 2005, British officials said it was not immediately clear how much of the $46 million was in British banks and could be returned to Zambia.
Associated Press Writer Joseph J. Schatz in Lusaka, Zambia, contributed to this story.
Copyright © 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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