G.Bissau holds ex-finance minister for 'economic crimes'

A former finance minister in Guinea-Bissau, who was in the government overthrown by the army last April, has been arrested for "economic crimes", his family and a legal source said Tuesday.

Joao Mario Vaz was arrested in Calequisse, his native village some 120 kilometres (75 miles) north of the capital Bissau, on Monday, a day after he returned from exile in Lisbon, family members told AFP.

A legal source confirmed the report and said that Vaz had to answer for "economic crimes", without giving any more details.

Vaz, who was close to former prime minister Carlos Gomes Junior, went into exile with him in Portugal after a military coup on April 12 last year that overthrew interim president Raimundo Pereira between the first and second rounds of a presidential election.

The second round had been due to pit Gomes Junior, a member of the former ruling African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC), against former president Kumba Yala.

Transitional authorities put in place in May 2012 have promised to hold elections this year. The vote was due to take place in May, but has been postponed to an unspecified date.

After last year's coup, most of Guinea-Bissau's foreign partners suspended their aid to the former Portuguese colony, which has been confronted since independence in 1974 with chronic instability, in which the military has played a major role.

Guinea-Bissau's leaders also face the challenge of cracking down on drug traffickers who have turned the small and poor west African country into a transit point for cocaine between Latin America and Europe.