Zambia: Ex President Frederick Chiluba goes home a free man

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A court in Zambia has acquitted former Zambia president Frederick Chiluba of all graft charges that where hanging over his head. Magistrate Jones Chinyama last Friday postponed his ruling to Monday but today in a shock judgment said the “prosecution team had failed to prove the case against Chiluba”.

“I find that the accused is not guilty on all counts,” Chinyama said. Chiluba was facing six counts of theft and aguilty verdict was largely expected.
The former President is still popular among Zambia’s poor despite charges of stealing nearly $500,000 of public funds.

Journalist in Lusaka say a tough sentence would have caused political tension. “There was jubilation outside the court room when news filtrated
through that Chiluba has been acquitted. But there was a heavy police presence just in case something nasty happened” said Chishimba Mwana.

Mwana said the judgment took six-hours being read. Chiluba, throughout the trial maintained that he is not guilty of any wrongdoing saying he is the victim of a political campaign by opponents to ruin him.

Chiluba led Zambia for a decade, after ousting liberation hero Kenneth Kaunda in Zambia’s multiparty elections in 1991. The former trade unionist was hailed as a democrat after helping to dismantle Kaunda’s communist single party rule, which lasted 27 years.

Chiluba’s wife, Regina, was jailed for three and half years for corruption in March. She has appealed against the verdict to the high court, which has yet make a final decision.

Chiluba, president between 1991 and 2001, was effectively the author of his own downfall when he anointed his successor, the Late Levy Mwanawasa.

Levy Mwanawasa who kicked the bucket last year at a military hospital in France, was instrumental in the abbrogation of an immunity law that protected Chiluba from prosecution in 2003.

According to media reports, Chiluba at one point spent more than $500,000 in a single shop, Boutique Basile, in Geneva. The shop owner Antonio Basile, told the court that payment for the clothes sometimes arrived in suitcases full of cash.

Among court exhibits were Chiluba’s top of the range 650 pairs of
expensive shoes.

It is not certain whether a United Kingdom court ruling in 2007, which found Mr. Chiluba guilty in a corruption case, will be considered by the Zambian courts. It had been proved that the ex president had transfered over ten million dollars into his personal accounts in British banks.

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