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DRC: Matata Ponyo tried in default for embezzlement

DRC: Matata Ponyo tried in default for embezzlement
Augustin Matata Ponyo during an interview in Kinshasa, 13 April 2015   -  
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Democratic Republic Of Congo

The Constitutional Court of the Democratic Republic of Congo decided Monday to judge "by default" the former Prime Minister and presidential candidate Augustin Matata, prosecuted for alleged embezzlement of public funds, as part of a second trial in the same affair.

At the opening of the hearing, Mr. Matata's defense indicated that the latter was ill and was receiving treatment abroad, before requesting a period of 60 days to judge him.

The court “recognizes the default with regard to Mr. Matata and asks his lawyers to withdraw,” declared its president Dieudonné Kamuleta after a brief suspension. This is an "unfair decision, which does not preserve the right of defense", reacted to AFP Me Laurent Onyemba.

Now a senator and president of the Leadership and Governance for Development (LGD) party , Mr. Matata was Prime Minister from 2012 to 2016, under the regime of former President Joseph Kabila (2001-2019).

In November 2020, the General Inspectorate of Finance (IGF) of the DRC concluded in a report that 205 million dollars, out of 285 million disbursed by the Public Treasury for the Bukanga-Lonzo agro-industrial park, a pilot project to 250 km southeast of Kinshasa, had been diverted.

Mr. Matata was named as the “intellectual author” of the misappropriation, which he disputes.

In November 2021, the Constitutional Court, the highest court in the country, which judges in the first and last resort, ruled that it did not have jurisdiction to try a former Prime Minister, putting an end to the proceedings against him.

In June 2022, the case was brought back before the Court of Cassation which, the following month, referred the former Prime Minister to the Constitutional Court to be tried again.

The former head of government is today being prosecuted alongside Déogracias Mutombo , former governor of the central bank of Congo at the time of the events, and a South African national, Grobler Christo, manager of a South African company. African.

Mr. Matata, also an opposition candidate for the presidential election next December on behalf of his party, denounces what he considers to be maneuvers aimed at excluding him from this election, in which President Félix Tshisekedi, in power since January 2019, is a candidate for a second five-year term.

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