Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Ex-ministers jailed for stealing Ebola funds

DR Congo’s former health minister, who led the fight against a deadly Ebola outbreak, was sentenced to jail along with a colleague on Monday for stealing funds destined to fight the disease.

Oly Ilunga was sentenced to five years in jail by the Court of Cassation, while the former finance minister for Kinshasa province, Guy Matondo, got eight years.

Ilunga, who was health minister between December 2016 until his resignation in July last year, and a colleague are accused of embezzling $400,000 (372,000 euros) from the Ebola war chest.

The latest Ebola epidemic, the country’s 10th since 1976, has killed over 2,200 people. It was first identified in August 2018.

In a statement, Ilunga denied wrongdoing, denouncing “several procedural flaws” in the trial.

A ruling by the Cassation Court cannot be appealed in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Matondo’s lawyer, Michel Omba, said his client’s eight-year sentence was a “judicial scandal.”

Matondo was charged with siphoning off $21.7 million and 235 million Congolese francs ($147,000).

Both men were sentenced to hard labour, but such sentences are not executed in the DRC and they will serve their terms in prison.

President Felix Tshisekedi has made the fight against corruption one of his government’s priorities.

Ilunga was close to Tshisekedi’s father, a veteran opposition leader. He was a doctor in Brussels before he joined the government.

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