A court in Malawi has jailed nine senior police officers to 14 years each for fraud, a prosecutor said Monday.

The officers, most of them at superintendent rank, were convicted of stealing a total of 55 million kwacha ($164,000 / 123,000 euro) from the police coffers.

"The nine had formed a network with civilians to siphon money from the Malawi Police Service through over-requisitioning of salaries and also underpaying taxes," police prosecutor Happy Mkandawire told AFP.

Mkandawire, who led the prosecution team, said the nine were part of an original group of 15 suspects arrested in 2009 during a "clean-up exercise" of the police headquarters accounts department.

One of the convicts, Isaac Moyo, was the chief paymaster of the 11,000-strong police force in the southern African country.

Three suspects were acquitted, two died during the trial and one female officer was given a suspended sentence because she has a baby.

The nine others were jailed on Friday after a four-year trial.

The prosecutor said that sudden changes in the officers' lifestyles, including buying cars and owning property, raised suspicion and prompted the audit.

Malawi police officers earn on average the equivalent of $100 (75 euros) a month.

Prosecutors estimate that one third of Malawi's revenue is lost to fraud and ghost workers.

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