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Malawi arrests ex-justice minister over murder attempt

08 November 2013, 13:53

Blantyre, Malawi - Malawi police said Friday they have arrested axed justice minister Ralph Kasambara over a failed assassination attempt on a corruption-busting treasury official.

Paul Mphwiyo, the budget director in the finance ministry, was shot and wounded outside his house in September just as he was about to expose a government corruption ring.

The former justice minister is the fourth suspect to be arrested over the assassination attempt.

"I can confirm about the arrest of Kasambara last (Thursday) night because he is a suspect and we want to establish his involvement in the shooting incident," national police spokesman Kelvin Maigwa told AFP.

Mphwiyo, 37, was flown to South Africa for medical treatment after the shooting.

He took up the corruption-busting job in July and was credited with overhauling a public finance system that had previously been full of loopholes, allowing fraud to go unchecked.

At the time President Joyce Banda's office said the plot was "a planned and targeted attack aimed at silencing him and the government in the fight against high levels of corruption and fraud."

Banda took over as president in April 2012 after Bingu wa Mutharika died suddenly.

Widely welcomed by the international community as Africa's second woman leader, she has received flak over the millions of dollars that have gone missing in government fraud.

Several public servants have been arrested over the past two months on suspicion of swindling the state of more than $20 million in what has been dubbed the Capital Hill 'cash-gate' scandal, named after the seat of government.

Kasambara, aged in his early 40s, became justice minister and attorney general in 2009 under Mutharika, though relations between the two soured later on.

Banda retained him as minister when she took power, but separated the attorney-general portfolio into a separate office.

As donors threatened to withdraw funding, Banda last month sacked her entire cabinet, including Kasambara, after reports that some were lining their pockets from state coffers in the deeply impoverished southern African state.

It is estimated that as much as one-third of the impoverished country's revenue is lost to fraud and graft-linked payouts.

International funders last week threatened to withhold budget aid to Malawi unless the government got serious about rooting out widespread corruption and restoring fiscal discipline.

The plunder of state funds had "seriously dented the confidence in the government's financial management system," said Sara Sanyahumbi, who heads the donor grouping which includes European countries, the European Union and the World Bank.

Malawi relies on donors for 40 percent of the state budget.



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