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LILONGWE (Reuters) - Malawi's former agriculture minister, George Chaponda, was arrested on Wednesday and faces graft charges over a procurement contract with neighbouring Zambia, his lawyer and the country's Anti-Corruption Bureau said on Wednesday.

It is the latest governance scandal to hit the impoverished southern African nation, which suffers periodic food shortages and relies heavily on donor aid.

Malawi President Peter Mutharika in January ordered an investigation into a $34.5 million government maize order, after a Zambian opposition leader said he had seen documents showing Malawi had been charged $345 (£265) per tonne for 100,000 tonnes of Zambian white maize worth $215 a tonne.

Chaponda's lawyer, Jai Bandam confirmed the arrest in a telephone interview with Reuters. He could not say when his client would be taken to court.

Malawi's Anti-Corruption Bureau said in a statement that its "investigation had established that there were offences committed in the procurement of maize from Zambia."

"Chaponda is likely to be charged with corruptly performing public functions, misuse of public office and possession of foreign currency contrary to" exchange control regulations, it said.

(Reporting by Mabvuto Banda and Frank Phiri; Editing by Ed Stoddard and Larry King)

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