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AFP
February 26, 2020

DRCongo graft probe nabs Lebanese construction boss

World

AFP
February 26, 2020

KINSHASA: A Lebanese construction company boss has been detained as part of a vast embezzlement investigation launched by President Felix Tshisekedi, a judicial source said Tuesday.

Jamal Sammih, head of the Somibo construction group, is the second foreigner targeted in the probe after US citizen David Blattner, who was detained on Friday.

"As part of the president´s emergency works programme, he (Sammih) won a contract to build 4,500 homes across the country, or 300 homes per province. Since receiving $17 million from the public treasury, only 17 homes have been built," the judicial source told AFP. Each home was estimated to cost $19,000, the source added.

Representatives from Sammih´s defence team were not immediately available for comment. Blattner heads the public works company Safricas-Congo, contracted along with others to build seven so-called "leapfrog" bridges in Kinshasa to ease traffic congestion at major intersections in the city.

But none has been completed nearly a year since Tshisekedi launched a 100-day programme soon after taking office in January 2019 aimed at improving the former Belgian colony´s infrastructure, among other pledges.

One of the new president´s promises was that the judicial system would be administered "by honest people with irreproachable ethical values, prepared to fight corruption" in sub-Saharan Africa´s largest country.

Blattner´s company is suspected of "breach of trust" because the bridges were not built within the three months stipulated in the contract, a judicial source told AFP on Saturday. Justice Minister Celestin Tunda Ya Kasende said Thursday that the probe marked the "start of the renewal" of the DR Congo´s justice system.