A former Malawian cabinet minister was sentenced to six years in jail for corruption on Thursday, the first conviction of a high-ranking official of the former administration since new President Lazarus Chakwera won office on an anti-graft campaign.
Chakwera unseated former leader Peter Mutharika in a June 23 re-run election after the 2019 poll was overturned by a court due to irregularities.
The re-run came after weeks of rare street protests against the ruling party over the elections and corruption accusations. [nL5N2E4011]
The High Court in Lilongwe sentenced the former ruling Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) powerful minister of home affairs Uladi Mussa for abuse of office and neglect of duty.
Mussa and another senior immigration department official were convicted on two counts of corruption related to the issuing of passports and other permits to foreign nationals.
The former minister has pleaded his innocence.
“I did not steal a single penny. What corruption is this?” Mussa said outside court before police drove him to jail.
His lawyer said they would be appealing. Mussa, 55, served in various cabinet positions since the early 2000s under different parties.
He joined former president Mutharika’s party in 2014, where he is vice president of the Central Region.
In 2019, the United States banned Mussa and his wife from entry, saying it had information he was involved in “significant corruption”.
In 2013 the land-locked southern African nation was rocked by the “Cashgate” scandal in which senior officials were accused of siphoning millions of dollars from state coffers, prompting donors to pull support to one the world’s poorest countries.