Malawian President Arthur Peter Mutharika. Picture: Amos Gumulira

Blantyre, Malawi - A Malawi court has made the first conviction of a senior official in the so-called “Cashgate” scandal that led to the suspension of foreign aid and helped push a government from power.

Top tourism ministry official Treza Namathanga Senzani pleaded guilty to stealing around $150 000 (63 million kwacha) from state coffers, part of a broader swindle worth at least $30 million.

She was convicted by on Thursday and will be sentenced on September 15.

Senzani was arrested last year after a probe found she issued two government cheques to her own company even though it did not provide any services.

She was one of dozens of civil servants charged with money laundering and theft.

A report by British auditors commissioned by former president Joyce Banda showed that at least $30 million had been stolen from the government over a six-month period last year.

The scandal had prompted foreign donors - who provide around 40 percent of Malawi's budget - to pull the plug on aid of around $150 million (110 million euros).

The Cashgate scheme is the biggest financial scandal in Malawi's history, and was an albatross around Banda's neck during elections in May which she lost.

Banda has been linked to Cashgate by political opponents, but has strenuously denied any involvement.