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Former DRC health minister convicted of embezzling Ebola funds

Date: Mar 23, 2020

A former health minister in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and his financial advisor were sentenced on Monday to five years of forced labor for embezzling more than $400 000 from the country’s Ebola response funds, a court order showed.

Oly Ilunga was health minister for seven months at the height of the Ebola epidemic in eastern DRC, which has killed more than 2200 people since mid-2018. It is winding down now, with no new cases recorded in over a month.    

President Felix Tshisekedi stripped him of his role managing the Ebola response July 2019 and he resigned from the government days later, criticizing actions taken by Tshisekedi. He was arrested in September 2019.  

Ilunga’s lawyers did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday, but they have previously denied all the allegations.

The court convicted Ilunga and his financial advisor of forging receipts worth $391.332 from a fake company, referred to as New Sarah pharmaceutical depot, to justify purchases of products already paid for by international donors.

The pair diverted a further $13 000 intended to pay for transport of life-saving goods to Ebola hotspots, the court found.

The judgment marks the first time a minister from former President Joseph Kabila’s government has been convicted for corruption since Tshisekedi took power in 2019. 

Ilunga was nominated by Kabila but remained in his post for months while negotiations about Tshiskedi’s first cabinet dragged out.
--Reuters--

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