Vital Kamerhe is the most senior politician to face trial for graft in DR Congo, where high-level corruption is endemic.
“From everything we have heard, the court has established as fact the offence of embezzlement of public funds relating to the amount of $48,831,148,” said presiding Judge Pierrot Bankenge Mvita wearing a mask and rubber gloves.
Kamerhe denies stealing money earmarked for social housing under President Felix Tshisekedi’s flagship 100-day building programme.
The veteran power broker appeared at the three-hour outdoor court hearing in a blue and yellow prison jacket and also wore a mask to protect against the coronavirus.
Kamerhe backed Tshisekedi in his successful 2018 election campaign in return for Tshisekedi’s support the next time around in 2023.
His arrest on April 8 sent shock waves through the country’s ruling coalition and the nation.
Last week the justice minister revealed that the former presiding judge, who was originally said to have died of a heart attack last month, was actually brutally murdered