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DRC president’s top aide Kamerhe gets 20-year jail term for corruption

Vital KamerheDRC’s Vital Kamerhe, President Tshisekedi’s chief of staff, found guilty of ‘diverting public funds worth 48.8m dollars’.

He was accused of playing a role in corrupt deals related to some infrastructure projects during the first three months of President Félix Tshisekedi’s term.

Vital Kamerhe, President Felix Tshisekedi’s 61-year-old chief of staff, has been found guilty of “diverting public funds worth 48.8m dollars” along with his co-accused, Lebanese businessman Jammal Samih, 79, the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s high court court said in a judgment on Saturday.

“From everything we have heard, the court has established as fact the offence of embezzlement of public funds relating to the amount of $48,831,148,” said presiding judge Pierrot Bankenge Mvita.

Kamerhe however denied the charges claiming the trial was political. His lawyer, Jean Marie Kabengela Ilunga, called the verdict a “violation of human rights” as he prepares to appeal it.

The veteran power broker appeared at the three-hour outdoor court hearing in a blue and yellow prison jacket and also wore a mask to protect against the new coronavirus.

Vital Kamerhe was arrested in April this year after being subjected to hours of questioning in the capital, Kinshasa.

Shortly after his arrest and questioning, Kamerhe was sent to the Kinshasa’s main prison, the Makala prison.

Kamerhe’s supporters say the case is politically motivated, aimed at blocking his chances of challenging Tshisekedi at the next election in 2023.

Vital Kamerhe jailed

Vital Kamerhe (L) supported President Félix Tshisekedi

High-profile cases In Dr Congo

Kamerhe is the most senior politician to face corruption charges in DRC, where high-level corruption is endemic.

Earlier in the month, the justice minister revealed that the former presiding judge, who was originally said to have died of a heart attack last month, was actually murdered.

This year another high-profile official, a former health minister was also jailed for five years for stealing more than $400,000 of funds meant to fight the Ebola epidemic.

The Belgian–Congolese medical doctor Oly Ilunga Kalenga was arrested last year by the Police for allegedly mismanaging funds allocated for the fight against Ebola.

Although Oly Ilunga denied any wrongdoing he resigned as health minister and criticized the World Health Organisation in his resignation letter.

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