Authorities have arrested Congo’s former public health minister on allegations he misappropriated more than $1 million in funds allocated by the World Bank to fight the COVID-19 pandemic
Longondo, who has maintained his innocence, was taken to the central prison of Makala following an hours-long court proceeding in Kinshasa, according to Inspector General of Finance Jules Alingeti.
It was not immediately known what specific charges Longondo faced or whether he had retained a lawyer.
The alleged acts of mismanagement came to light during investigations carried out at the Ministry of Health and the Central Bank of Congo, Alingeti said.
At a news conference on Wednesday, Longondo had sharply denied the allegations, stating that there has “never been any misappropriation of funds from Covid-19 at the Ministry of Health.”
Longondo had been appointed as health minister in 2019 and managed the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in Congo prior to being replaced in April.
In 2019, police arrested another former public health minister accused of misappropriating funds. Oly Ilunga denied embezzling any funds during a previous Ebola epidemic in eastern Congo, but was sentenced to five years in prison and has vowed to appeal the verdict.
Associated Press writer Krista Larson in Dakar, Senegal contributed.
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