LUSAKA, Zambia ( – The verdict in former Zambian President Frederick Chiluba's six-year corruption trial has been postponed until next week, an aide said Friday.
Chiluba was accused of stealing nearly $500,000 of state money to fund an extravagant lifestyle during his decade as the first democratically elected leader of the impoverished southern African nation. Chiluba was president from 1991 to 2001.
A verdict was expected Friday but will now be handed down Monday, Chiluba's special assistant Emmanuel Mwamba said. The magistrate, Jones Chinyama, was not ready to give judgment and didn't show up in court, Mwamba said. Chiluba was there and he was smiling and talking to people in the courtroom.
Scores of others who had been expecting a verdict filled the courtroom, including Chiluba's wife, Regina. In March, she was convicted of receiving stolen property and money from him and sentenced to 3 1/2 years hard labor. She is free pending an appeal.
If convicted, Chiluba could face a maximum of 15 years in jail. He will likely appeal any possible conviction and remain free on bail.
Chiluba's prosecution marks a milestone on a continent where politicians often have power over courts and oversight bodies are so weak that citizens struggle to keep their leaders honest.
Chiluba had argued that he and his associates were targeted in a political witch hunt backed by the British, Zambia's former colonial rulers.
Chiluba's prosecution was part of a larger anti-graft strategy pushed by the late President Levy Mwanawasa, once Chiluba's protege. The anti-corruption drive has won praise from Western donors and citizens and stands as a major legacy of Mwanawasa, who died last year at the age of 59 after a stroke.