Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe suspended the attorney general and appointed a three-member tribunal to investigate allegations that the state's highest law officer abused his powers, the official media reported on Saturday.
Sobusa Gula-Ndebele was arrested and charged with misconduct in the case of a fugitive banker on Nov. 8, but returned to work a few days after his release from police questioning.
Misheck Sibanda, the secretary to Mugabe's Cabinet, said Gula-Ndebele was formally suspended with effect on Friday. He named Judge Chinembiri Bhunu as head of the tribunal.
"After its inquiry, the tribunal will make its recommendations to President Mugabe on whether Mr Gula-Ndebele should remain as the country's attorney general," Sibanda said in an official announcement, the state Herald newspaper reported.
At the time of Gula-Ndebele's arrest last month it was alleged he assured banker James Mushore he would not be prosecuted on accusations of hard currency offenses if he returned from self-imposed exile in Britain. He met secretly with Mushore in a restaurant in Zimbabwe in September without informing authorities that the fugitive was back in the country.
Mushore was one of the country's most high-profile fugitives and had been on the police wanted list since 2004. He was arrested in Harare on Oct. 24 and was charged with violating hard currency exchange regulations through his National Merchant Bank in Harare in 2004.
Mushore, freed on bail after several days in jail, is awaiting trial on the alleged currency violations.
Several top bankers and corporate executives have fled during the worst economic crisis since independence in 1980, most accused of currency offenses.
Some say they fled currency and other charges they said were engineered to silence their criticism of the government's economic policies that led to acute shortages of food, gasoline and most basic goods.
A single US dollar fetches a record 2 million Zimbabwe dollars on the illegal black market and few transactions are done at the official exchange rate of 30,000 Zimbabwe dollars to US$1.
Even the central bank has acknowledged buying hard currency at black market rates to help pay for the nation's gasoline and power imports.
While he has not been openly critical of the government, Gula-Ndebele has refused to approve some politically related state prosecutions.
Central bank governor Gideon Gono, addressing the closing session of the ruling party's annual convention on Friday, alleged that ruling-party leaders and senior government officials were among "cash barons" fueling black-market racketeering that caused acute shortages of local currency ahead of the holiday season.
Several banks in Harare were closed on Saturday saying they had no cash for withdrawals and long lines snaked from automated teller machines programmed to dispense just 5 million Zimbabwe dollars to each customer.
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