KINSHASA (AFP) – Former health minister Oly Ilunga of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has been charged with embezzling funds allotted for the fight against the deadly Ebola virus, his lawyer told AFP on Tuesday.
“The magistrate told him that he was charged with embezzlement. As a former minister, he could not be placed in detention,” said the lawyer, Guy Kabyea, adding that Ilunga was being held under house arrest.
The ex-health minister, who resigned on July 22, has been accused of embezzling USD4.3 million in funds made available to him to fight the Ebola epidemic, which has claimed more than 2,000 lives in the east of the country since August 2018.
Police had questioned Ilunga last Saturday, suspecting him of planning to leave the DRC via neighbouring Congo-Brazzaville. He had been banned from leaving the country after his first interrogation in August.
Ilunga’s lawyers have rejected the embezzlement claim, saying accounts prove that public funds were used “exclusively” for the anti-Ebola battle. Ilunga, 59, stepped down from his role after criticising plans by the United Nation’s (UN) World Health Organization (WHO) to introduce a new, unlicensed vaccine to fight the epidemic.