…DR Congo’s former health minister held over Covid funds fraud

KINSHASA – Former DR Congo Health minister Eteni Longondo was detained on Friday over the alleged misappropriation of funds allocated to the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, official sources said.

Longondo “was placed under a provisional arrest warrant” following lengthy questioning, a government source said. The former health minister, who was in office until April, was taken to the Makala prison in the capital Kinshasa, according to a prison official also speaking anonymously.

Longondo, who had run the Health ministry since September 2019, stands accused of “embezzlement of public funds allocated to the response” against the Covid-19 pandemic, the Congolese Association for Access to Justice said on Twitter. Longondo has denied any fraud saying that the money in question, believed to be more than $7 million, had been “in the process of being verified” at the time of the enquiry.

In November he returned the sum of $721, 900 which he said had been an overpayment from the central bank. President Felix Tshisekedi, who took office in January 2019, has vowed to make the fight against corruption a hallmark of his tenure. Former presidential chief of staff Vital Kamerhe was in June sentenced to 13 years in prison for embezzling nearly $50 million of public funds.

 The DRC ranks 170th out of 180 countries in the 2020 Corruption Perceptions Index by the anti-graft NGO Transparency International.

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