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Last Updated: Friday, 20 February, 2004, 00:14 GMT
Singer on people smuggling charge
Papa Wemba
Wemba's unique music brought him a global following
The Congolese-born singer Papa Wemba has been charged with people smuggling, said the Belgium authorities.

The prosecutor's office in Brussels said the musician was released on bail after being questioned by a magistrate.

He was arrested at his home in the Paris region of France earlier this week and extradited to Belgium.

The 54-year-old is suspected in both countries of using his band as a cover to smuggle hundreds of people from his native Democratic Republic of Congo.

Papa Wemba, whose real name is Jules Shungu Wembadio Pene Kikumba, was given conditional bail by an examining magistrate on Thursday.

A prosecutor's office spokesperson said the singer had to remain available to both Belgian police and judicial officials for at least a further eight days.

Huge following

French police began investigations six months ago when 200 Congolese arrived in Paris saying they were Papa Wemba's musicians. They later vanished.

A similar case occurred in Belgium and further questioning of the people revealed that they had in fact each paid 3,500 euros($4,000) for their passage.

Papa Wemba was imprisoned in France last year after being placed under investigation but was released after three-and-a-half months in detention when he posted bail of 30,000 euros $35,000.

His French lawyer, Yves Leberquier, said on Wednesday that the singer had reached an agreement with the Belgian and French authorities over his extradition to Belgium.

Papa Wemba first burst onto the Zairean music scene in 1969, with the Zaiko Langa Langa band.

In 1977 he formed his band, Viva la Musica, which built him a huge African following.

He moved to Europe in the 1980s where his unique music, "rumba rock" propelled his international career.


SEE ALSO:
Papa Wemba arrested in Belgium
17 Feb 04  |  Europe
France grants bail to Papa Wemba
05 Jun 03  |  Europe
France investigates Papa Wemba
20 Feb 03  |  Europe


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