11 July 2018

Cameroon: Fiscal Stamp Fraud - Fight Enters Higher Gear

The reluctance of citizens to queue in public offices is fuelling the illegal activity to the detriment of the national economy.

Two youngsters have been arrested in Yaounde with a bag of counterfeit fiscal stamps. The duo nabbed for supposedly selling fake stamps was reportedly hired by a student in Bonamoussadi, a crime-prone neighbourhood near the University of Yaounde I.

Cameroon Tribune observed after a tour around administrative buildings in Yaounde that the arrest has apparently not deterred other youngsters living off the business. They perch around court rooms and offices of civil administrators such as Governors, SDOs, DOs, and even police stations, beckoning passersby who appear to be scouting for middlemen to help them apply for certification or production of official documents.

The middlemen collect certificates and applications from the unsuspecting customers with whom they exchange phone numbers to facilitate recovery of certified or produced documents. Customers pay for fiscal stamps and a token for the services of the middlemen and only return later to collect the ready documents. The general waiting time for processing of files by middlemen in Yaounde is 24 hours, regardless of the document required or office from which it is sought.

Amungwa Walters, a Yaounde city dweller says he has used the services of intermediaries for four years without a problem. "I am told a production of a certificate of non conviction would cost me about FCFA 1,500, but the standard fee out here is FCFA 2,500. I pay it because it's stress-free. I don't have to spend hours waiting on a queue," he says.

Another user who refused to be named said he knows the documents are forged. "They falsify even the official blue and red ink stamps and signatures. There was a time I gave my documents to an intermediary, who went away and returned with a non conviction certificate without pretentiously entering the court premises as the others do" he said.

Sources around the courts in Yaounde say middlemen only use fake stamps on documents meant for particular exams or institutions where verification is loose.

"They need to stay in business so they try to be credible. When public recruitment exams are launched, fraudsters make more cash because they know examination of files would take long. So even if candidates' files are rejected, they will hardly remember who dubbed them," a source said, adding that not all intermediaries are frauds.

It is apparently for this reason that the frauds and honest intermediaries are allowed to operate openly, with government rather stressing on sensitising citizens against the use of intermediaries for the purchase of fiscal stamps. The adverse impact of the laisser-faire is an upsurge in the illegal trade.

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