Ousted Haitian dictator Jean-Claude ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier has been charged with corruption and misappropriation of funds, his lawyer confirmed this evening.

‘Yes he has been charged,’ lawyer Gervais Charles said after Duvalier, 59, was hauled before prosecutors less than 48 hours after suddenly returning to Haiti after more than two decades in exile. ‘But I don't understand it,’ Charles added.

It was not yet clear whether Duvalier, who ruled Haiti with an iron fist from 1971-1986, would be taken to prison after his questioning or placed under house arrest somewhere else.

Haitian police detained the former dictator earlier today after authorities said he would be questioned over money stolen during his rule.

He is accused by human rights groups of being responsible for the killing and torture of opponents during his 15 years in power.

Mr Duvalier, who fled Haiti in 1986 to escape an uprising, returned unexpectedly to a country gripped by political uncertainty after inconclusive presidential elections on 28 November.

The country is still struggling to recover from a devastating earthquake that struck a year ago.

Earlier, a senior government official told Reuters news agency that Mr Duvalier would be questioned and may be prosecuted for stealing from the treasury during his years in power as 'president-for-life'.

'He will be questioned and he will remain at the disposal of the judicial system,' said the government official. 'They will determine whether to prosecute him.'