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DRC: Former PM Augustin Matata Ponyo placed under house arrest over embezzlement

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Former Congolese Prime Minister, Augustin Matata Ponyo has been placed under provisional house arrest.

The former Prime Minister is accused of alleged embezzlement of funds intended to compensate victims of "Zairianisation". His probe began Monday by the Prosecutor General's Office at the Constitutional Court.

Escorted by the police, he was placed under house arrest on Tuesday.

Matata Ponyo had his immunities as a former prime minister and senator lifted on 5 July, when the public prosecutor's office requested that his office be authorised to prosecute him.

In the indictment sent to the president of the upper house of parliament, Modeste Bahati Lukwebo, on 24 June, the prosecutor general had explained that Matata Ponyo was suspected of having concluded in 2011, when he was Minister of Finance, a memorandum of understanding to allow the Congolese government to compensate 300 former owners of "Zairianised" property in the early 1970s, under Mobutu.

Appointed Prime Minister a year later, Ponyo is alleged to have disbursed more than 110 million dollars, according to the prosecution's indictment. Investigations conducted within the Directorate of Public Debt Management (DGDP) had found no trace of the existence of these 300 people, who had lost their movable and immovable property as a result of the 'Zairianisation'.

This prompted the public prosecutor at the Court of Cassation to open a case against Matata Ponyo, but the procedure was not followed up until now. "It turned out that the funds disbursed for this purpose by the Public Treasury benefited people who were completely unrelated to this process [of compensation]," reads the indictment sent to the Senate.