For the first time in DRC, the Congolese across the country switched to the unpopular state Television channel RTNC on Wednesday to follow the court proceedings of the country’s largest embezzlement case.
From Makala central prison, Vital Kamerhe the chief of staff to the President and other co-accused Jammal Samih and Jeannot Muhima were arraigned before the judge for hours of multiple cross examinations.
This trial of Congo’s political elephant is not a joking matter as it has also resulted in mysterious death of Judge Raphaël Yanyi. The trial had earlier been suspended over the weekend following the judge’s death. Critics have pointed to possible poisoning involved.
Witnesses and judges involved are repeatedly receiving death threats and there are fears anything can happen as the culprits being pinned command wide networks of persons with money, power and influence.
On Wednesday the court hearing kicked off from 9a.m. A new presiding judge Pierrot Bankenge Mvita hardened the tone visibly touched by the mysterious death of his colleague. The Judge used the first two hours reading procedures that were to be complied to during the hearing.
Jeannot Muhima Ndole was the first to be called to the bar. He was shaking before tough faced new judges. The presidency’s import-export expert made revelations that he was mandated, by Vital Kamerhe, Director of Cabinet of the Head of State, with U$1.1 million to clear containers between Tanzania and the DRC.
Mr Muhima was pounded with many questions and seemingly got confused. He adopted a “non-response” strategy and refused to respond to a new revelation from the trial.
However, in a testimony at Matete Prosecutor’s Office, Muhima had admitted to have received U$2 million to clear containers in Matadi, where Minister John Ntumba would join him.
The Judge called the powerful Vital Kamerhe to the docket. He is highly combative, educational and above all a speaker but he also adopts a “non-response” strategy.
In this case, Kamerhe was tasked to answer the question of: what are the provisions of the contract binding the Samibo Company of Jammal Samih and the Congolese State, on which the Director of the cabinet of the president Félix Tshisekedi relied to make the disbursement money entrusted to Jeannot Muhima for customs clearance.
However, a cunning Kamerhe did not answer directly. He resorted to hurling a tirade of statements and criticisms on the absence of any document proving that he had indeed embezzled funds. For Kamerhe this case is politically engineered.
The judge called forward Jammal Samih a Lebanese businessman that is accused of enabling this massive fraud of public funds. He was asked whether he knows Soraya Mpiana the stepdaughter to the powerful chief of staff- Vital Kamerhe.
“I don’t know Soraya, only Daniel,” Jammal told court.
Vital Kamerhe is said to have entrusted his stepdaughter with a plot of land in order to obtain the contract under the 100-day program.
However, the Lebanese businessman admits having given a plot to “Daniel”, alluding to Daniel Shangalume Nkingi, cousin of Vital Kamerhe. He explains that “Daniel” is a friend to his children with whom he has often worked. The donation, he explains, was to thank him for the business that has nothing to do with the 100-day affair.
“I am a trader, I have a lot of land and Daniel has done me a favor, so I gave him land. But he was the one who said that I put the name Suraya but I don’t know Soraya! “, He explained.
Regarding the affinity that exists between Daniel Massaro and Vital Kamerhe, Jammal said “do not know the relationship that exists between them”.
“I did not know that Daniel Massaro was a nephew with Vital Kamerhe, I met him by chance at the Presidency and we took a photo. Is it for a photo that I am accused? Even with President Mobutu I have a photo! “He related.
But according to prosecution, “Daniel Massaro” is indeed the link between Kamerhe and Jammal. In addition, arrested on May 15th after nearly a month on the run, he was confronted on May 24th with the former curator of Ngaliema real estate titles around this aspect.
The latter was heard for his role in awarding a registration certificate for “empty land”. The title of donation indeed bears the name of Soraya Mpiana, but the signature is of Massaro in “P.O”, inform judicial sources.
In addition, by taking the floor to refute in particular the fact of having met Jammal Samih, disputing in addition the photos which were published on social networks, Vital Kamerhe points out that the gift that justice accuses him of having received the Lebanese date of January 24th, 24 hours before he came to power.
Another Twist In courtroom as Kamerhe is Pinned down
In the courtroom is a former cabinet minister Justin Bitakwira Bihona-Hayi. At 3P.m, he throws a spanner in the works. He says President Felix Tshisekedi had a 100-day plan after assuming office- to build 900 housing units in 9 provinces.
Justin Bitakwira Bihona-Hayi denied the existence of a contract or endorsement for the payment of $ 57 million to Jammal Samih’s company.
“There is no contract or endorsement,” he said, noting that a contract was signed in 2018 before being questioned. There was then a draft amendment, but this was never validated by the Directorate General of Public Procurement Control.
“The bill for the contract for 900 houses for 9 provinces was supposed to be paid in three instalments. The state had first said that the public treasury had no money. That’s how it happened. This contract did not get started. The story of U$57 million is something else. That makes two different contracts,” he said.
The former minister also revealed that he was “discharged” from the file since “March 3rd, 2019″, on instruction of Vital Kamerhe.
“The management of this project was removed from me to be entrusted to the Minister of Town Planning and Housing. I have not had any more dealing with this file. I don’t know what happened to the project, “he said.
“I learned that the payment of U$57 million was paid only in July when two ANR Intelligence agents came to ask me the question. But at that time, I was no longer in charge of the project, in accordance with Vital Kamerhe’s request, “he said.
However, Vital Kamerhe said the opposite that a contract and an amendment were signed by Justin Bitakwira. The plaintiff and the public prosecutor claimed that there was no contract around this market which led to the payment U$ 57 million.
Furthermore, contrary to Kamerhe’s assertions during the first two days of the trial, the former minister said that he was never associated with the management committee.
“I have never been invited to the presidency on the endorsement regarding prefabricated houses. I never mandated anyone, nor the SG of the ministry even a call, nor SMS “. This version was confirmed by another witness that succeeded Bitakwira, the former Secretary General of the Ministry of Rural Development.
Another witness Michel Ngongo -The Director General of the Directorate General of Public Procurement Control (DGCMP) also pinned Kamerhe in this gross fraud. Ngongo announced that he had received death threats if he did not testify for “the one or the other” accused.
Ngongo denied granting a notice of no objection to his services to the market which led to the payment of U$57 million to the SAMIBO Company; which calls into question the existence of a contract between the Congolese state and the company of Jammal Samih, as Kamerhe claimed.
To make matters worse, Ngongo revealed that Kamerhe had not received authorisation from his organisation to award a second contract to the Lebanese businessman Jammal Samih . According to Ngongo, the DGCMP received a letter from Kamerhe requesting a no-objection notice for a market for prefabricated houses, this time to be entrusted to Husmal SARL, but still belonging to businessman Jammal Samih.
However, this request was never accompanied by a contract; which prompted the regulator to refuse this request.
In addition to the U$57 million fraud through the SAMIBO Company, Kamerhe is also accused of having embezzled more than U$2 million intended for the Husmal Sarl Company for construction of 3000 prefabricated houses for the benefit of the police and military. The plaintiff and the public prosecutor also argued that this second market had no legal basis.
The trial resumes today [Thursday 4th June]