The vice-president’s arrest followed accusations he had received money to influence the awarding of contracts to Xaviar Ltd and Malachitte FZE, two companies linked to British businessman Zuneth Sattar.

Mr Sattar also denied any wrondoing.

The vice-president has made several court appearances since his arrest, although the actual trial never commenced.

On Monday, presiding judge Redson Kapindu ordered his immediate discharge citing a filing from the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) made last Friday of a “discontinuance of charges against the accused person in respect of three counts of corrupt transactions”.

The DPP now has 10 days to formally inform parliament of the reasons that led to the decision to drop the charges against the vice-president, as required by the constitution, the judge said.

Dr Chilima’s lawyer, Khumbo Soko, expressed relief over the decision to drop the charges.

“As of now, we do not know the reasons for the discontinuance, suffice to say only parliament has the mandate to know,” the Reuters news agency quoted him as saying.

Critics of the Malawian President Lazarus Chakwera say the development is a further indication of his difficulties in fighting alleged corruption.

President Chakwera made dealing with graft one of his key campaign pledges in 2020 and in public speeches repeatedly speaks highly of his government’s commitment to bringing it to an end.

When tens of other high profile officials including the vice-president were named in a corruption scandal, the president dismissed several of the named officials.

Under Malawi law the president cannot fire the vice-president.

The president however made a public announcement that he would no longer delegate him any official duties while he was facing trial.

The promise did not last long and the president had started to assign official duties to his vice-president even before the case was dropped on Monday.

This has led critics to suggest the president had a hand in the decision to end the case against Dr Chilima.

Information Minister Moses Kunkuyu however said the decision to drop the charges was done in accordance with the law.