Malawi anti-corruption force swoops on president's ally

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Malawi's Anti-Corruption Bureau arrested a top police commander and a businessman with ties to President Peter Mutharika on Wednesday over a graft scandal that has embarrassed his government ahead of polls.

Mutharika has previously faced questions over whether he profited from the award of a $3.9 million contract to supply rations to the police force.

The arrests come at a sensitive time for Mutharika who is preparing to contest elections in 2019.

The central region police commissioner Innocent Botomani, who was police head of finance at the time of the transaction, will be charged with fraud, abuse of office and acquiring proceeds of crime, said the ACB in a statement.

Karim Zameer, the head of Pioneer Investments which won the tender in 2015 and is an ally of Mutharika, will be charged with theft and fraud.

A police superintendent will face a forgery charge over the affair.

"They will be taken to court after the Bureau has recorded statements from them," said the ACB.

A leaked investigative report alleged that Karim paid $200 000 into the account of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party one day after receiving payment for the rations supply deal.

Mutharika was listed as the sole signatory on the receiving account, according to the report.

Following a public outcry over the vast donation, the party was forced to return it - but an ACB probe subsequently cleared Mutharika of personal wrongdoing.

After facing criticism for the decision, ACB director general Reyneck Matemba later said it was his right to discontinue investigations in the absence of incriminating evidence.

Karim previously hit the headlines when it was revealed in July that he donated five vehicles worth a total of $115,000 to Mutharika who, local press reported, then registered them in his own name.

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