Prime Minister Augustin Matata Ponyo
Former Prime Minister Augustin Matata Ponyo has been released from house arrest by a Democratic Republic of Congo’s Constitutional Court on Wednesday, July 14.
His lawyer Laurent Onyemba told AFP that the former prime minister "is no longer under house arrest... He returned to his home without being accompanied by police."
Matata had earlier been placed under house arrest pending an investigation into embezzlement charges against him.
Though in May 2021, prosecutors had asked parliament to lift the immunity granted to Matata in his new role as a senator so that he could face a probe over alleged corruption, they voted against lifting immunity, saying that the Constitutional Court which made the request was not empowered to try a parliamentarian.
For criminal proceedings in Democratic Republic of Congo, senators come under the jurisdiction of the Court of Cassation.
However on July 5, six members of the Senate office agreed to a demand by the prosecutor of the Constitutional Court to remove Matata’s parliamentary immunity.
Matata was minister of finance and then prime minister in the government of ex-President Joseph Kabila from 2010 until 2016. In November 2020, the IGF state spending watchdog reported that the equivalent of $205m had been plundered out of $285m disbursed for a pilot agro-industrial scheme in Bukangalonzo, 250km (155 miles) southeast of the capital.
The IGF implicated Matata in its report, saying he was the “intellectual author” of the crime. He denied the accusations and lodged a complaint against the IGF’s head and three other financial investigators for “slanderous” claims.