Zambia Ex-President Pleads Not Guilty To Graft

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Zambia’s embattled ex-president Rupiah Banda pleaded not guilty Tuesday to charges of illicitly receiving election campaign vehicles from a Chinese-linked construction firm.

Banda, who ruled Zambia between 2008 and 2011, is accused of receiving 10 trucks from the local subsidiaries of China’s Anhui Foreign Economic Construction Group.

“I understand the charge your honour and I plead not guilty,” Banda said after the magistrate read the charge.

The 76-year-old also pleaded not guilty to a second charge of concealing the fact he received the trucks by registering them under the names of family members and a supporter.

It is alleged that the former leader used the vehicles, including Mitsubishi Canters and Fuso Fighters, in his 2011 re-election campaign, which he lost to current president Michael Sata.

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Since Sata came to power he has rolled out an anti-corruption drive that has seen senior politicians and diplomats hauled before courts.

But critics accuse him of using the campaign as an excuse to clamp down on critics, including launching a slew of charges against Banda.

The former president has been accused of personally benefiting from a $2.5 million oil deal and has been blocked from leaving the country three times since April.

The trial was set for 26 November and Banda was released on police bond.