Zambia strips ex-president of immunity from prosecution

LUSAKA Fri Mar 15, 2013 2:31pm EDT

Zambia's President Rupiah Banda gestures during the Reuters Africa Investment Summit held in Johannesburg March 8, 2011. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

Zambia's President Rupiah Banda gestures during the Reuters Africa Investment Summit held in Johannesburg March 8, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Siphiwe Sibeko

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LUSAKA (Reuters) - Zambia's parliament stripped former President Rupiah Banda of immunity from prosecution on Friday, clearing the way for investigators to arrest him for corruption-related offences.

Banda is accused of abuse of office, corrupt acquisition of public property and misappropriation of public funds involving more than $11 million during his tenure as president.

Justice Minister Wynter Kabimba said the government had concluded its investigations and were ready to prosecute.

"We bring this motion in the interest of the country," Kabimba said,

Banda was swept from office in 2011 by current President Michael Sata, whose government has launched several high-profile graft probes into deals struck by the former administration while it ran Africa's biggest copper-producing country.

Kabimba has accused Banda of siphoning $2.5 million from the treasury in a 2008 oil deal and the former president has also been accused of using public funds to finance his 2011 campaign.

Banda's lawyer Robert Amsterdam said in a statement that Friday's action in parliament was aimed at getting rid of political competitors.

Sata's government has already won convictions against a few Banda officials and has been investigating suspected shortfalls in tax collection revenues from copper.

In February, Banda who then enjoyed immunity from prosecution, refused to appear before a team of investigators, which summoned him for questioning on graft allegations.

(Reporting by Chris Mfula, editing by Paul Casciato)

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