11 December 2012

Cameroon: CSPH Case - Ngue Nlend Pleads Not Guilty

He was at the Special Criminal Court yesterday to answer a FCFA 54 million embezzlement charge.

The Special Criminal Court has rejected an application for a new inquiry into the case between the State of Cameroon, the Hydrocarbons Prices Stabilisation Fund (CSPH) and Ngue Nlend Flaubert Steve and Onana Mvogo Abdon. Both are charged with jointly and fraudulently obtaining in 2011 over FCFA 54 million from CSPH, a State-owned corporation.

Appearing before the Special Criminal Court in Yaounde yesterday December 10, 2012, Ngue Nlend, a businessman, whose co-accused is on the run, pleaded not guilty as charged. In lieu of producing a list of defence witnesses as the prosecution had done a few minutes earlier, defence lawyer, Barrister Ndongo Christian Patrick, filed a motion for a new inquiry to be launched into the matter. He defended his request by the fact that his client, Ngue Nlend had made certain false declarations but was prepared through the motion to denounce all parties involved in the scam.

More so, he said, the matter under trial was already before other courts and involving some of the suspects who were not present at the Special Criminal Court. "We had filed this motion to the Advocate General of the Mfoundi High Court on March 5, 2012 for the opening of a second preliminary inquiry but this demand was rejected," he submitted. According to him, a denunciation letter in which the accused exposes all parties involved in the act was annexed to the motion. To buttress his point, he cited Article 390 of the Criminal Procedure Code that empowers the court to pass an interlocutory ruling ordering an additional inquiry if need be. "A second inquiry will contribute to the good administration of justice and the preservation of the defence rights of the accused, my client," he said.

The representative of the Legal Department, Advocate General Bikong Maffock protested against the move. For, according to current procedures, another inquiry was out of question. He said for the court to order a new inquiry, there must be a new charge. More so, he pursued, defence had time since reception of the committal order to file the motion to the Examining Magistrate and not to the court. "We hold that the request is inadmissible at this stage of the procedure. Here, the accused has already pleaded not guilty. We await the list of defence witnesses to be produced so that proceedings could continue," he said.

In granting the request of the Advocate General, the Presiding Judge, Eloundou Virginie called on defence to allow the court to appraise the arguments presented before it and the opportunity to order for a fresh inquiry. After obtaining from defence compliance to produce its list of witnesses, she adjourned the hearing to December 20, 2012.

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