DR Congo court gives 20-year sentence to president’s chief of staff Kamerhe for graft

Pictured in this file photo, Vital Kamerhe, now chief of staff of the president of the Democratic Republic of Congo, attends a meeting in Kinshasa, DR Congo on December 28, 2018.
Pictured in this file photo, Vital Kamerhe, now chief of staff of the president of the Democratic Republic of Congo, attends a meeting in Kinshasa, DR Congo on December 28, 2018. © Baz Ratner, Reuters

The Democratic Republic of Congo's high court on Saturday found the president's chief of staff guilty of embezzling $48 million in public funds and sentenced him to 20 years in jail, the lead judge said.

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Vital Kamerhe is the most senior politician to face trial for graft in DR Congo, where high-level corruption is endemic.

"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 wearing a mask and rubber gloves.

Kamerhe denies stealing money earmarked for social housing under President Felix Tshisekedi’s flagship 100-day building programme.

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 coronavirus.

Kamerhe backed Tshisekedi in his successful 2018 election campaign in return for Tshisekedi’s support the next time around in 2023.

His arrest on April 8 sent shock waves through the country’s ruling coalition and the nation.

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

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)

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