Lebanese contractor and businessman Jammal Samih has been sentenced to 20 years of forced labor in Congo after being found guilty of diverting public funds.
Samih, 79, was accused alongside Vital Kamerhe, the President’s chief of staff of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), of embezzling an estimated $48.8 million of public money.
“From everything we have heard, the court has established as fact the offense of embezzlement of public funds relating to the amount of $48,831,148,” the presiding judge Pierrot Bankenge Mvita stated, as per Al-Jazeera.
The money was reportedly allocated by the DRC’s government to build 1,500 social housing units and was allegedly misappropriated to Samih’s company, Samibo SARL, as part of a prefabricated “homes contract” awarded to the company.
According to the prosecution, out of the large sum that the Lebanese businessman received from the state, $30 million were withdrawn by two of his sons before vanishing into thin air.
Notably, Vital Kamerhe’s lawyer said his team plan to appeal the hard labor sentence due to the fact that penal labor is banned under the DRC’s constitution, and denounced the trial as a “show trial.”
The same goes for Jammal Samih, who will be expelled from Congo at the end of his 20-year hard labor sentence.
Meanwhile, the Congolese official’s supporters claim that the case is unfair and politically motivated.
What’s mysterious about this case is the fact that former judge presiding on this case died last month from a cardiac arrest, as initially declared. The autopsy revealed that he was, in fact, murdered.
This trial came as part of Congo’s recent campaign to “renew” its justice system and hunt down corrupt officials and colluders.