Vital Kamerhe, chief of staff to President Felix Tshisekedi of the Democratic Republic of Congo, has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for embezzlement.
He was found guilty of embezzling public funds to the tune of $48 million.
“The court has established as fact the offence of embezzlement of public funds relating to the amount of $48,831,148,” Pierrot Bankenge Mvita, the judge, said in the ruling on Saturday.
According to Reuters, his conviction comes ten weeks after he was arrested on April 8.
Kamerhe had denied embezzling funds which were set aside for a social housing project, stating that the accusations against him were politically motivated.
Jean Marie Kabenga Ilunga, his lawyer, maintained that he would appeal the ruling as his client’s sentencing was a “violation of human rights”.
The chief of staff is said to have supported Tshisekedi’s presidential ambition and saw to its success in 2018, with possibility of Kamerhe getting same support in 2023.
However, according to the verdict by the court, he will not be eligible to contest for presidency for ten years after serving jail term.
In the buildup to the conviction on Saturday, Raphael Yanyi, a former presiding judge in the case, who was presumed to have died on May 26 of a heart attack, was later confirmed to have been murdered.
“He died a violent death, due to the blows of sharp points or knife-like objects, which were thrust into his head,” Celestin Tunda Ya Kasende, justice minister, told Reuters after an autopsy was carried out.
Yanyi had presided over the trial and adjourned sitting till June 3, two days before his death.