BLANTYRE, Dec 8 (Reuters) - Malawian authorities have arrested three officials of the former ruling party, including a former finance minister and central bank governor, for alleged abuse of office, fraud and corruption, a police spokesperson said on Wednesday.
Spokesperson James Kadadzera said former central bank governor Dalitso Kabambe and ex-finance minister Joseph Mwanamvekha - both members of the Democratic Progressive Party and expected presidential rivals to President Lazarus Chakwera in elections scheduled for 2025 - had been arrested overnight.
None of the individuals arrested were available for comment, but the DDP party has accused the government of using financial crimes as a pretext to persecute and hobble the opposition.
The men arrested are suspected of presenting false accounts to the IMF to mislead IMF officials into thinking they were meeting their loan conditions, Kadadzera said.
"The two, whilst serving as minister of finance and reserve bank governor respectively ... masterminded the falsification of (data) ... to make the International Monetary Fund believe that the Government of Malawi was meeting (loan) conditions," he said in a statement.
"As a result of this scheme, the IMF suspended the said extended credit facility to the prejudice of innocent and ordinary Malawians."
Malawi is one of the world's poorest countries, with nearly three-quarters of the population living on less than $2 a day.
Kadadzera said Mwanamvekha is further accused of fraudulently overseeing the sale of a former state-owned bank Malawi Savings Bank (MSB) to banker Thomson Mpinganjira, who owns FDH Bank and has a conviction for trying to bribe a judge.
Police have also arrested former local government minister Ben Phiri for suspected procurement fraud and corruption with the Ministry of Gender, which used his printing company in 2018 and 2020, he added.
Both Mwanamvekha and Phiri serve are lawmakers for the DPP, while the former central bank governor is a front-runner to replace former President Arthur Peter Mutharika as leader of the former ruling party. (Reporting by Frank Phiri; Editing by Tim Cocks and Jan Harvey)