Embezzlement trial opens for ex DR Congo’s prime minister

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Augustin Matata Ponyo

The Democratic Republic of Congo’s former prime minister Augustin Matata Ponyo went on
trial Monday on charges he embezzled public funds.

Matata appeared briefly before the Constitutional Court, the nation’s highest judicial body, in
the capital Kinshasa, an AFP journalist reported.

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He appeared beside Patrice Kitebi, a close aide at the time of the alleged corruption, and
Grobler Christo, a South African who is described as the manager of a South African firm.

The court adjourned the case until November 8 after pointing out that Christo had no
interpreter present. The three defendants are accused of embezzling public funds.

In November last year, the state spending watchdog, the IGF, reported that $205 million had
been plundered out of $285 million disbursed for a pilot agro-industrial park in Bukangalonzo, 250 kilometres (155 miles) southeast of the capital.

The IGF implicated Matata in its report, saying he was the “intellectual author” of the crime.

“In creating this park, the so-called pilot park, Mr. Matata falsified everything at the start to
achieve his objectives,” the prosecutor alleged, without giving detail.

He has denied the accusations and his lawyer Safari Mulume told AFP previously that he had
lodged a complaint against the IGF’s head and three other financial investigators over
“slanderous” claims.

Now a senator, Matata was minister of finance from 2010 until 2012, and prime minister from
2012 until 2016, under the regime of former president Joseph Kabila.

In May, Congolese senators denounced the case against Matata, invoking parliamentary
immunity for a former prime minister.

But on July 5, six members of the Senate bureau agreed to a request from a Constitutional
Court prosecutor to lift his parliamentary immunity for another legal case.

Before the trial opened, Matata’s defence pledged to challenge the right of the Constitutional
Court to hear the case.

Defence lawyers declined to comment about the first hearing which was broadcast live on
state television.

In the DR Congo, the Constitutional Court serves as the criminal tribunal for the president
and the prime minister while in office.


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