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Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 November, 2004, 17:52 GMT
Guilty verdict for Congolese star
Papa Wemba
Papa Wemba's supporters cheered as he left court
A court in Paris has handed down a 30-month jail term - most of it suspended - to one of Africa's biggest music stars, Congolese singer Papa Wemba.

He has already spent nearly four months in jail, so he will not have to return to prison, the Bobigny court decided.

The so-called king of "rumba rock," arrested in France last year, was found guilty of aiding an illegal immigration racket involving his entourage.

Prosecutors said almost 200 Congolese nationals entered France illegally.

The BBC's Caroline Wyatt in Paris says 150 of his fans -- in and outside the court -- shouted and danced with joy when they heard the verdict, before rushing to carry their hero out of court, a free man.

Papa Wemba is suspected of having received payment to procure visas for the Congolese nationals.

He's not here to take the blame for a whole group of people
Yves Leberquier
Papa Wemba's lawyer

A prosecutor had called for a five-year jail sentence for the singer.

Papa Wemba, 55, faces similar charges in Belgium, where he holds citizenship.

French prosecutor Nadine Perrin called for jail sentences ranging from between 18 months and four years for eight others appearing on the same charges, including the singer's wife.

The singer, whose real name is Jules Shungu Wembadio Pene Kikumba, was arrested in Paris in February last year.

He admitted helping a small number of people enter Europe, but only after his name was used for the scheme by others.

Alleged scam

According to the French authorities, would-be immigrants from DR Congo paid $4,500 in exchange for documents showing that they were members of Papa Wemba's band or road crew.

French officials finally became suspicious when some 200 people showed up at immigration in 2000, claiming to be Papa Wemba's musicians, yet none had any musical instruments with them.

French police say some turned out to be goat herders and others fishermen.

Papa Wemba was already a hugely popular performer in the then Zaire before the fashion for African and world music brought him fame in Europe and the US.

He is also renowned as the moving spirit behind a cult movement known as "the Sapeurs" whose members, young men, spend huge amounts of money on designer clothes.




SEE ALSO:
Wemba's world music fusion
25 Oct 04 |  Entertainment
Papa Wemba arrested in Belgium
17 Feb 04 |  Europe
France investigates Papa Wemba
20 Feb 03 |  Europe


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