The Constitutional Court of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) ruled on Monday in Kinshasa that it had no jurisdiction to try former Prime Minister Augustin Matata on charges of embezzlement of public funds, leaving it to other judges.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the Constitutional Court is the criminal judge of the President of the Republic and the Prime Minister in office.
"The privilege of jurisdiction ceases with the office. Mr. Matata must be prosecuted before his natural judge," said Constitutional Court President Dieudonné Kaluba at a public hearing, without specifying which judges the former prime minister should be referred to.
Consequently, Mr. Matata "cannot be prosecuted before the Constitutional Court", which "declares itself incompetent", he added.
Augustin Matata Ponyo's lawyers had pleaded the Constitutional Court's incompetence during a hearing on November 8, pointing out that their client, who was Prime Minister from 2012 to 2016 under the regime of former President Joseph Kabila (2001-2019), had not been in office for several years.
As a senator, Mr. Matata should be referred to the Court of Cassation, which has jurisdiction over parliamentarians, according to his lawyers.
Protected by his parliamentary immunity, he can only be prosecuted after authorization from the Senate.
The former head of government is being prosecuted alongside Patrice Kitebi, former Minister of Finance at the time of the events, and a South African national, Grobler Christo, manager of a South African company.
All three are suspected of embezzling more than $200 million in public funds intended for the Bukanga-Lonzo agro-industrial park, 250 km southeast of Kinshasa, while Matata was Prime Minister.