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Ex-Congo public health minister accused of COVID-19 fraud

Fitness & Health:

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.

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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.

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Associated Press writer Krista Larson in Dakar, Senegal contributed.

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