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Appeal Court Shocks Forjindam With Life Jail 

By Joe Dinga Pefok — The Littoral Court of Appeal, July 20, delivered a shocking life sentence on former General Manager of CNIC, Zaccheus Forjindam.

The court found Forjindam guilty of two of seven charges brought up against him.

One of the two charges which landed Forjindam a guilty verdict had to do with a FCFA 214-million cheque that was issued to a firm, Logisco, for a job done in 2003.

The verdict that caused Foirjindam to appeal was delivered by the Wouri High Court on October 28, 2010, that landed him a sentence of 12 years imprisonment.

In that case, Forjindam and eight other former collaborators and contractors of CNIC were charged to court for alleged embezzlement of FCFA 970 million.

The charge was based on the report of a private audit firm, Cameroon Audit Council, CAC, which was conducted at CNIC on the unilateral decision of one of the shareholders, the National Hydrocarbons Corporation, SNH.

Earlier on July 18, the Littoral Court of Appeal had slammed heavy jail terms on Forjindam and two of his former collaborators for embezzlement.

Forjindam was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

The former Director of Finance at CNIC, Jean Simon Ngwan, was also sentenced to life imprisonment and ordered to pay a heavy fine.

Forjindam and Ngwan were jointly charged for the alleged embezzlement of a total of FCFA 206 million. 

Two of Forjindam’s collaborators, Antoine Njiande and Samuel Youta, both former senior staff of the CNIC Finance Department who were tried in absentia, were found guilty of embezzlement, and were each sentenced to 35 years in jail.

The court, however, did not find Forjindam guilty of embezzlement, but rather declared him guilty of complicity (complicite de plus d’interet dans un delit).

The second charge for which Forjindam was found guilty was again that of complicity with the cashier in the alleged embezzlement of FCFA 84.320.000.

Besides being given a 15-year jail sentence by the Littoral Court of Appeal, Forjindam was also ordered to pay a heavy fine.

However, unlike with the October 28, 2010 High Court judgment, the Appeal Court reinstated Forjindam’s  houses and cars that were impounded by the High Court.

But the Appeal Court still maintained the seizure of five plots – two at Nkwen in Bamenda, two in Santa, and one in Yaounde.

The Post leant that the two plots in Bamenda were given to Forjindam by his father-in-law.

‘Judgment Ridiculous’

The Appeal Court also discharged and acquitted the former Director of Human Resources at CNIC, Mrs. Rose Constance Angele Moudio Njoh nee Massot.

When The Post contacted Forjindam’s lead defence counsel, Innocent Bonu, he said: “I find the judgment delivered by the Court of Appeal ridiculous”.

Barrister Bonu stated that “the judgment was not motivated” for, the court did not present any concrete evidence to justify the verdict.

As for the matter concerning the payment of FCFA 214 million for the contract that was awarded to Logisco, Bonu noted that the State Inspectors as well as the experts who were hired by the court had explained that there was no case of embezzlement in the matter, for the contract was effectively and properly executed.

Bonu asserted that the real issue was rather that of a conflict of interest involving the former Director of Finance at CNIC, Samuel Youta, who left the company in 2005.

He said it was discovered during investigation that Youta had an interest in an enterprise, Logisco, which was awarded the FCFA 214-million contract in 2003. 

But Bonu stressed that Forjindam was never aware of the fact that Youta had an interest in Logisco, and that from all evidences, he learnt of it only in 2007 after the said investigation.

He as well asserted that even Youta himself declared during the judicial investigation in 2007 that the General Manager of CNIC never knew about his link with Logisco.

It should be noted that, the prosecution and civil party in the case had insisted in court that Forjindam knew that Youta was the real boss of Logisco.

But Forjindam and his defence counsel dismissed the claim as false.

As for the accusation of complicity with a cashier to embezzle FCFA 84 million, Bonu dismissed it as pure nonsense.

He noted that the cashier in question was himself not charged to court in the matter. Instead it was his purported accomplice, Forjindam, who was charged. 

Meanwhile, the case which came up at the Wouri High Court on the alleged embezzlement of FCA 206 million by Forjindam and the former Director of Administration and Finance, Jean Simon Ngwan, the complaint was filed at the Littoral Judicial Police in Douala, in December 2009, by the Interim General Manager of CNIC, Antoine Bikoro Alo’o.

The FCFA 206 million comprised 12 cheques, which were issued as payments to a number of small contractors for jobs done for CNIC.

Bikoro claimed that the payments were done without justifications.

Forjindam was never interrogated by the police on the issue of the 12 cheques.

When the matter later opened at the Wouri High Court, Forjindam and Ngwan all pleaded not guilty to the charge.

They both accepted that they signed the cheques and insisted that the payments were all rightfully done, as there were adequate justifications.

They presented what was considered to be evidences in court to justify the payments that were done with the 12 cheques.

Forjindam said that he never at anytime signed a cheque without cross-checking to ensure that all was in order.

Forjindam To Appeal

While still expressing shock with the judgement”, Barrister Bonu noted that even the jury at the Littoral Court of Appeal in passing its ruling, shelved the report of the experts who were hired by the same court to carry out investigation at CNIC.

Despite the verdicts, Bonu congratulated his client for being “wonderful”.

He said the former General Manager of CNIC had a mastery of his files, and that his intelligence, dexterity and excellent comportment, were all qualities that blended together with facts of the matter, to help prove his innocence in court beyond all reasonable doubts, despite the controversial rulings at the end.

Bonu also seems to share the view that is now being expressed by an increasing number of Forjindam’s sympathisers that the case against him is political, and that some people in some quarters are using the courts to try to destroy him.

He cautioned those people working behind the scenes “to realise that we can never succeed to use the law to solve political problems, but rather we can use politics to solve legal problems.”

Bonu said that they will file an appeal at the Supreme Court against the July 18 ruling, and another at the Littoral Court of Appeal against the July 20 ruling of the Court.

First published in The Post print edition no. 01361

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