Congo arrests former health minister for lack of COVID funds

Former Democratic Republic of Congo Minister of Health Eteni Longondo was remanded in custody on Friday for alleged embezzlement of funds allocated to the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, prison and government sources said.

“The former Minister of Public Health, Dr Eteni Longondo, was questioned at length by the prosecutor at the Court of Cassation and placed under a provisional arrest warrant this evening. I do not know if he is already in prison” a member of the government told AFP, requesting anonymity “in the name of the separation of powers.

“Dr Eteni did indeed arrive here at Makala central prison on the basis of a provisional arrest warrant issued by the prosecution. We installed him in pavilion 8”, told AFP a prison officer on condition of anonymity.

The transfer to the prison took place in the early evening, according to several sources contacted by AFP. Mr. Eteni Longondo, Minister of Health from 2019 until last April, is accused of “embezzlement of public funds allocated to the response” against the Covid-19, wrote on Twitter the Association for Access to Justice (ACAJ).

In August 2020, the General Inspectorate of Finance (IGF) suspected former Minister Longondo of having embezzled more than $ 7 million intended for the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic in the DRC, the management of which is characterized by “Lack of support expenditure documents” drawn up.

Mr. Longondo has always denied having embezzled this money, arguing that “these documents were being verified by his services” at the time of the audit. In November, he returned $ 721,900 to the public treasury, representing “the overpayment” and “the difference on the decontamination of the People’s Palace”, the seat of parliament, as well as a “double payment made by the Central Bank of the Congo “.

Congolese President Félix Tshisekedi has made the fight against corruption one of the priorities of his mandate. Mr. Longondo is the first member of the presidential Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) party to be arrested for embezzlement of public funds.

The former chief of staff of the Congolese leader, Vital Kamerhe, was sentenced to 13 years in prison for embezzling more than $ 50 million to build prefabricated houses for the army and the police.

AFP

About Christopher Easley

Christopher Easley

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