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DRC: Vital Kamerhe’s request for temporary release rejected

By Romain Gras, Stanis Bujakera Tshiamala
Posted on Wednesday, 29 April 2020 11:49

Vital Kamerhe
Vital Kamerhe, chief of staff for President Félix Tshisekedi. © Robert Carrubba for JA

Seventeen days after the incarceration of Félix Tshisekedi’s chief of staff, the investigating judges referred the case to the District Court of Kinshasa. Just the night before the decision, Vital Kamerhe came close to obtaining a temporary release.

Vital Kamerhe will indeed appear before the District Court of Kinshasa-La Gombe. This information was confirmed by the lawyers of Félix Tshisekedi’s chief of staff. The date of the first hearing has not yet been set.

READ MORE: Why Tshisekedi’s right-hand man Vital Kamerhe sits in jail

The attorney general of the Kinshasa-Matete Court of Appeal, Kisula Betika Yeye Adler, has completed his investigation as part of the enquiry into Tshisekedi’s 100-day programme and decided to refer the case to the judiciary. The Congolese president’s chief of staff is accused of “misappropriation of public funds”, “money laundering” and “corruption” in the context of the management of funds allocated to the emergency programme launched in March 2019.

“Serious evidence of guilt”

On 11 April, the judiciary had already decided to keep the chief of staff in pre-trial custody for two weeks, deeming that there was “serious evidence of guilt”.

The judges have taken a particular interest in two matters. The first concerns the construction of prefabricated homes by Husmal and Samibo, two companies owned by Jammal Sammih, a Lebanese entrepreneur who was arrested in February in relation to the case.

The second matter has to do with a private contract awarded to the company Trade Plus, which allegedly received $10m to supply drugs despite the fact that it is not specialised in the pharmaceutical industry.

During Kamerhe’s hearings, he denied the charges against him. In recent weeks, he has come face-to-face with various individuals involved in the case, including other members of the commission tasked with managing the president’s 100-day emergency programme.

READ MORE: DRC: Félix Tshisekedi asks Cameroonian Akéré Muna help to fight corruption

And so the chief of staff will remain in custody at Makala Prison while awaiting his trial.

However, according to our sources, on 20 April he very discreetly submitted a request for temporary release. After two rejections, he decided this time around to submit a confidential request. To do so, he used the services of a different law firm than the one representing him up until now, as his two first requests submitted via the original law firm had been dismissed.

A ‘very high-risk’ patient

Kamerhe’s third request, which we were able to consult, was founded on three arguments: “I do not pose a risk of fleeing or evading justice given my current position as the chief of staff of the president of the Republic and that my home and residential addresses are common knowledge”, read Kamerhe’s statement to the attorney general of the court of appeal.

The defendant added that “to date there is not any possibility of collusion with the various protagonists involved in the case”.

He concluded: “I note that there is no possible opportunity for me to hide evidence [given that] I have presented you with every piece of evidence in my possession. Also, I bring to your attention that my state of health requires appropriate care in a clean environment during the COVID-19 pandemic, as I have a pre-existing condition considered to be a significant risk factor for the disease.”

In a medical report we were able to access from the Médecin de nuit clinic in Kinshasa, Kamerhe’s doctors did indeed classify him as “a very high-risk patient if he were to contract the coronavirus due to his advanced age (61 years old) and other additional factors”. As a result, the clinic recommended his “urgent” transfer to an equipped medical facility.

According to our sources, on Friday, 24 April, Kamerhe’s third request had a “90% chance of approval”. All that was left to do was “set the bail amount”. A source close to the matter asserted that late that same night, the top judicial authorities ultimately decided to refuse his request for temporary release.

A person from Kamerhe’s entourage commented scathingly: “Why does the state of emergency not apply to his situation? How are we supposed to believe that this isn’t a political ploy?”

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