Africa

Malawi 'cashgate' scandal: Civil servant Sithole jailed

US dollars (file photo) Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption The "cashgate" financial scandal is the worst to hit Malawi

A Malawi court has sentenced a former junior civil servant to nine years in jail with hard labour for his part in the "cashgate" corruption scandal.

Accounts assistant Victor Sithole is the second official to be found guilty over the affair.

He was found guilty of stealing more than $66,000 (£41,000) in cash.

At least 70 people have been arrested after an audit last year revealed that about $60m had been skimmed from government funds.

Businessmen and politicians are alleged to have colluded with civil servants to make payments for goods and services that were never delivered.

The BBC's Raphael Tenthani in Blantyre says Sithole's arrest in August 2013 kick-started what became known as the "cashgate" affair - the worst financial scandal in the country's history.

It became public knowledge a month later following the shooting of the finance ministry's then budget director Paul Mphwiyo.

At the court in the capital, Lilongwe, magistrate Patrick Chirwa sentenced Sithole, 28, to seven years for money laundering, one year for illegal possession of foreign currency and one year for being found in possession of stolen property - all three terms will run consecutively.

According to the online Nyasa Times newspaper, Sithole's lawyer said the sentence was harsh as his client had already spent one year in custody awaiting trial.

The first person to be convicted in relation to the high-profile case was former Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism, Tressa Namathanga Senzani, who was sentenced to three years in jail last month.

Western donor nations and agencies, which provide 40% of Malawi's budget, froze vital aid worth around $150m in reaction to the scandal.

Although former President Joyce Banda was not directly involved in the scandal, analysts say it may contributed to her losing elections earlier this year.

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