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DRC: Italian, 2 other businessmen released without charge

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Democratic Republic Of Congo

Alexander Zingman and Paolo Persico arrived in Zimbabwe after being released.

The Italian Paolo Persico, owner of Super Agro Trading, was detained in the south of the DR Congo for the last 12 days.

He and two other businessmen of Belarusian origin, Alexander Zingman and Oleg Vodchits, were not charged.

"I was very much concerned about what could happen to me or my relatives when I was in Congo, in that detention centre, because no evidence was presented. We didn't know at all why we were there, we were put there by force, so we didn't go what was going on", Zingman said.

The three were held without arrest warrants on charges of arms trafficking. They were taken to a detention centre in the Congolese capital, Kinshasa and questioned by four different security agencies. Persico explains to our sister station, Euronews.

"Almost immediately we were told that they had received the information that we were arms dealers and they asked us if it was true or not. So, yes, certainly the situation had already been prepared before. All the connotations of the dynamics that took place in the first moments of the arrest suggest that someone sent probably voluntarily incorrect information about us, so that we would be suspected of these crimes", he said.

The businessmen were denied consular access and legal counsel for the first 72 hours.

It was eventually established that they were indeed bona fide executives on a legitimate business visit.

Camillo Casola is a Research Fellow at ISPI Africa Programme.

"The charges have been resolved positively, but they are strongly explanatory of a climate of tensions, uncertainties and even, to some extent, paranoia, currently in force in RDC, in a framework of serious instability, which adds to the insecurity and political violence in the east of the country", Casola said.

The North Kivu province where Persico and the two Belarusians were detained, is among the most dangerous areas of the country. Armed militias fight to control the territory and the rich agricultural and mineral resources.

The businessmen said their recent ordeal would not stop them from pursuing their business deals, and that they looked forward to returning to Central Africa's most populous nation.

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