9 January 2013

Cameroon: Special Criminal Court - Accused of Double Payments to Contractor

Five staff of the Ministry of Finance pleaded not guilty to the charge, on January 9.

Olinga Joseph, Eloundou Elomo Charles Armand, Talla Feune Martin Luther, Bayeck Samuel and Mrs. Moussoua Moukete Hervée Lucienne, Wednesday, January 9, 2013 in the Special Criminal Court, Yaounde pleaded not guilty to the charge of embezzling State funds amounting to FCFA 75 million by paying twice for a State contract in 2011.

Before a college of judges comprising Justice Yap Abdou as President and Justices Eloundou Virginie and Nyoh Mathias, five out of the seven accused made known their readiness to go ahead with proceedings and establish their innocence. They are all staff of the Department of Treasury and Financial and Monetary Cooperation in the Ministry of Finance.

Sometime in 2011, a company that executed a public contract was due payment. It is alleged that the accused staff connived to carry out the payment of over FCFA 75 million twice so as to later share the booty. To prove these allegations, the Legal Department, represented by Advocate General Didier Edjisna, presented a list of three prosecution witnesses.

Justice Yap Abdou's roll call of defence lawyers unveiled the absence of Olinga Joseph's Counsel, Barrister Tague Jean Jacques, who was said to be seriously ill and hospitalised at the Yaounde Central Hospital. Barrister Francis Bipan, lawyer for Moussoua Moukete Hervée Lucienne, pleaded for a month's adjournment because his client had health problems and had undergone a major surgical operation two days before, in spite of her presence in court yesterday. "She can barely walk and could collapse in the course of proceedings if time is not given for her convalescence," he pleaded.

In rejecting the plea, Justice Yap Abdou emphasised the principle of celerity in proceedings before the Special Criminal Court. "Such a request is inadmissible," he said emphatically before adjourning the case to Monday, January 21, 2013 at 9 am for the hearing of prosecution witnesses and presence of Olinga Joseph's Counsel.

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