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Zambian ex-leader's wife to face graft trial

afrol News, 23 July - The wife of Zambia's former President Frederick Chiluba was on Tuesday ordered by a judge to stand trial next month to prove how she had acquired huge funds and property she received during his husband's rule.

Regina Chiluba, formerly a mistress of Mr Chiluba until they got married after the latter left office, will stand trial for alleged corruption. Her allegations were centred on accepting her husband's stolen funds and property while she was his mistress.

Regina Chiluba has always denied the allegations, insisting that she has been a victim of "political persecution" for merely marrying ex-President Chiluba, who is himself standing trial for stealing public funds and abuse of office.

In his ruling, Judge Kunda in the capital Lusaka, found "the accused with a case to answer on all the six counts." Her lawyers are now waiting for 25 August trial to call six witnesses to rubbish the evidence against their client.

Mr. Chiluba, who had ruled Zambia from 1991 until 2001 when he handed over leadership baton to his hand-picked successor Levy Mwanawasa. Soon the two political leaders' honeymoon ended after Mr Mwanawasa's government dragged Mr Chiluba to court on alleged graft charges.

President Mwanawasa, who has been battling stroke in a Paris hospital, in March dashed hopes of granting pardon to his predecessor, saying he would not bow down to several appeals to do so.

"I have not seen or considered any reasons why I should exercise my discretion to forgive Chiluba," President Mwanawasa had earlier stated. "I am not prepared to abdicate my responsibility and interfere with the rule of law."

The Zambian leader said as "a good friend of mine, we would all be glad if Chiluba had been acquitted by the courts of law." In 2007, the Zambian leader said Mr Chiluba's pardon would be conditioned on returning 75 percent of the purported stolen money from the state coffers amounting to over US$ 488,000.

Throughout the wrangling legal battle, Mr Chiluba maintained his not-guilty plea. He had continuously denied that the allegations were "baseless and unfounded."

Notable for his expensive lifestyle, the former President was accused of siphoning millions of state funds into his personal bank accounts. At some stage last year, his trial was put off to allow him to travel for overseas medical treatment. This was necessary after he had collapsed by a heart attack at his home.

Mr Chiluba was also interrogated on several other corrupt claims, including money paid to a Canadian firm for the supply of maize worth US$ 24 million in 1997, though the supply was never delivered.

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