Mr Vital Kamerhe, the Chief of Staff to Congo President Felix Tshisekedi, has been sentenced to 20 years of forced labour on Saturday for the embezzlement of more than 50 million dollars.
The funds were pilfered from contracts meant to buy prefabricated homes for police and the military.
The landmark judgement was the first time since independence that judges in Congo found a serving cabinet member guilty of corruption.
Kamerhe was the Chief of Staff to Tshisekedi until his arrest on April 8. He was widely believed to become the president’s successor. As Tshisekedi’s senior aide, Kamerhe supervised the public contracts.
At a hearing held in a fairground in the capital Kinshasa, Kamerhe was found guilty along with two other defendants. All three were ordered to pay the state 150 million dollars in damages.
Another official in the presidency, Jeannot Muhima, was also sentenced to two years of forced labour.
Muhima, who oversaw imports, was found guilty of embezzling more than one million dollars, intended for customs clearance of the prefabricated homes.
Sammal Jamih, the Managing Director of the contracted company Samibo Congo, was found guilty of money laundering and embezzling the state funds meant to finance the purchase of prefabricated homes.
Jamih, a Lebanese national, was ordered to repay an additional 20 million dollars, twice the amount he was found guilty of money laundering.
Judge Pierrot Bakenge described the government contract linked to the embezzlement as “imaginary,” adding that contract did in effect not exist.
The state also seized Kamerhe’s property, as well as property belonging to his wife and daughter-in-law, who are accused of benefiting from the corruption.
Kamerhe’s lawyer Jean-Marie Kabengela said he will appeal the “unfair” ruling because “the judges have not proven how Kamerhe embezzled the funds.” (dpa/NAN)