Malawian police arrest ex-minister for attempted murder

LILONGWE Fri Nov 8, 2013 5:37am EST

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LILONGWE (Reuters) - Police in Malawi arrested a former justice minister on Friday in connection with the attempted murder of a budget official whose shooting helped expose a multi-million-dollar corruption scandal.

Ralph Kasambara is accused of masterminding the shooting of budget director Paul Mphwiyo in August as he drove into his residence in Lilongwe, capital of the southern African country.

"Mr Kasambara was arrested early this morning in connection with the attempted murder of the budget director," said the new justice minister, Fahad Assani.

Mphwiyo was shot three times but survived the attack, after which revelations of serious financial mismanagement in government started to emerge. Several junior public officers have already been arrested for allegedly looting over $100 million.

The arrest comes a day after donors said they would delay the disbursement of crucial budget support until the government investigates the alleged embezzlement. Norway suspended budget aid last month.

Malawi is one of the poorest nations in Africa and donors account for about 40 percent of its budget. Finance Minister Maxwell Mkwezalamba said the decision to withhold assistance would have a "massive impact" on the country's 13 million people.

"We are trying to look at the budget framework again and find ways of cushioning the impact," he said.

President Joyce Banda responded to the shooting and scandal by sacking Kasambara and two other ministers, including Mkwezalamba's predecessor as finance minister.

The president, who faces an election next year, has won acclaim in the West for austerity measures and moves to bolster the aid-dependent economy. It has shown signs of improvement in the past few months with inflation easing and earnings from its main export, tobacco, expected to double this year.

(Reporting by Mabvuto Banda; Editing by Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo and Mark Trevelyan)

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