18 February 2013

Cameroon: Double Payment Case - Hearing of Second Witness Adjourned

The Special Criminal Court (SCC) has chosen Thursday February 28, 2013 to continue hearing the case opposing The State of Cameroon (Ministry of Finance) to Messrs Olinga Joseph, Eloundou Elomo Charles Armand, Talla Feune Martin Luther, Bayeck Samuel and Mrs. Mossoua Moukete Hervée Lucienne; all staff of the treasury department of the Ministry of Finance (MINFI).

In pronouncing the adjournment yesterday, February 18, 2013, the president of the college of judges, Mr. Justice Yap Abdou said it was to permit the presence of Barrister Kamdem, lawyer for accused Talla Feune Martin Luther and also to enable Barrister Donjio Kagho, new lawyer for accused Olinga Joseph, to get acquainted with the case file.

According to the committal order, the accused are alleged to have connived sometime in 2011 to fraudulently make a double payment of over FCFA 75 million to a contractor, SOGELEC, who had duly executed an electrification public contract issued by the Yaounde City Council.

When the hearing scheduled yesterday opened at 10:30 am, the second prosecution witness, Bernard Dilangue, Inspector of Budget at the Ministry of Finance, was ready to enter the witness box. However, Barrister Donjio Kagho, lawyer for accused Olinga Joseph, requested an adjournment of the case to enable him acquire and get acquainted with the case file. "Since I was committed by court to defend Olinga Joseph, I am yet to get the committal order. An adjournment will enable me prepare a better defence for my client," he told the court. Mr. Justice Yap Abdou hesitantly remarked that issues linked to Olinga Joseph's change of lawyers had seriously slowed the process. In effect, Barrister Donjio Kagho was the accused's third lawyer since the beginning proper of proceedings on January 9, 2013 when all accused pleaded not guilty to the charge by prosecution.

Furthermore, accused Talla Feune Martin Luther had mentioned the absence of his lawyer, Barrister Kamdem, taken by ill health and requesting an adjournment. The demand strengthened an earlier statement made by Barrister Francis Bipan who told the court that his client, Mrs. Mossoua Moukete Hervée Lucienne was still responding to treatment after a surgical operation. "I visited her physician who assured me that she might be up next week and be here during the next hearing," he explained.

During the previous hearing on February 4, 2013, the first prosecution witness, Arnauld Philippe Ndzana testified that only one payment order had been made by the Yaounde City Council for the Ministry of Finance to pay the electrification contract, implying that the second payment was fraudulent.

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