Malawi's $100m 'cashgate' corruption trial begins

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Media captionLuxurious homes were built with alleged stolen money

The first two out of 70 defendants are appearing in court in Malawi over the "cashgate" affair, the biggest corruption scandal in Malawian history.

Up to $100m (£60m) was allegedly stolen from government funds, leading to the suspension of international aid.

Up to 40% of Malawi's annual budget is donor-funded.

The issue came to light in September last year after the attempted assassination of the finance ministry's budget director Paul Mphwiyo.

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Image caption Many Malawians have been shocked by the allegations

Just days before, a junior civil servant was allegedly found with more than $300,000 in cash in the boot of his car.

More cash was confiscated from some civil servants' homes and car boots.

Caroline Savala and Leonard Kalonga, both civil servants, appeared in the court in the capital, Lilongwe, to answer charges of theft and money-laundering.

Malawi's donors have withheld $150m pending further investigation into the scandal.

According to the finance minister, up to $100m is suspected of being stolen altogether.

The BBC's Raphael Tenthani in Malawi says an audit led by British forensic experts has so far verified that $20m was stolen.

Our correspondent says the scandal could cost President Joyce Banda and her People's Party votes in an election due in May.

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