Zambia's ex-foreign minister arrested on corruption charges

LUSAKA (Reuters) - Zambian anti-graft authorities on Tuesday arrested former foreign minister Joseph Malanji for possession of property suspected to be proceeds of crime.

Following his election in August, Zambia's new President Hakainde Hichilema vowed to step up the fight against graft and recover state assets allegedly stolen under the previous government, which also left Zambia in a multibillion dollar debt crisis that has forced it to seek help from the IMF.

Malanji, 56, is accused of possessing a Bell 430 helicopter valued at about $1.4 million, which is suspected to have been acquired from proceeds of crime, the Anti-Money Laundering Investigations Unit said in a statement.

He was unavailable when Reuters tried to phone him, and he has said nothing in the past about the charges.

Malanji is also accused of possessing three other properties suspected to have been bought from proceeds of crime, for which he paid $16,733, $14,311 and $18,955 in cash in Lusaka.

Malanji has also been jointly charged and arrested with former Secretary to the Treasury Fredson Yamba over an irregular transfer of over 154 million kwacha ($192,000) to the Zambian mission in Turkey. Yamba was also unavailable for comment, neither has he commented in the past.

Yamba was released on bail while Malanji has been detained in police custody until he meets the conditions set for him to be granted police bond, the anti-money laundering unit said.

($1 = 803.9800 kwacha)

(Reporting by Chris Mfula, Editing by Tim Cocks and Angus MacSwan)

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