Zambian ex-minister held over buried cash

2011-12-01 20:09

Lusaka - Zambia's former labour minister Austin Liato pleaded not guilty on Thursday to receiving stolen property, after authorities found more than $400 000 in cash buried on his farm.

His arrest on Wednesday came one month after Zambia's newly elected President Michael Sata vowed to weed out corruption.

Authorities last week found 2.1 billion kwacha ($416 000) in cash buried on his farm, but have given no indication as to how Liato might have obtained the money.

"I understand the charge and I plead not guilty," Liato told the court on Thursday.

He was granted bail of 50 million kwacha, and ordered to return to court on December 22.

His appearance caused scuffles at the court as his relatives beat photographers who tried to take his picture.

Since taking office after his September election victory, Sata has moved to strengthen anti-corruption legislation by putting back on the books the offence of abuse of office, which the previous government had repealed.

One of Sata's first acts was to sack the head of the Anti-Corruption Commission, Godfrey Kayukwa, who had been accused of bungling graft investigations and was perceived as close to former president Rupiah Banda.