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CAMAIR Case: After Refunding FCFA 1.7B, YM Fotso Bags Life Sentence 

By Yerima Kini Nsom Yves Michel Fotso

The Special Criminal Court in Yaounde recently slammed a life jail term on the former Provisional Administrator of the defunct Cameroon Airlines, CAMAIR, Yves Michel Fotso, for embezzling a circa FCFA 69 billion of State funds.

A panel of judges, led by Justice Virginie Eloundou, pronounced the verdict on April 25, in the absence of the accused and his lawyers. Yves Michel Fotso had already bagged a 25-year jail term in 2012 for embezzling public funds in the BBJ-2 affair that borders on the purchase of a Presidential plane.

For one thing, the April 25 verdict came after the accused had begun refunding the money he was accused of having embezzled. He has already paid in over FCFA 1.7 billion into State coffers. Fotso paid in the money hoping that the court will stop prosecuting him as provided for in Article 8 of the 2012 law creating the Special Criminal Court.

Speaking to the press in Yaounde recently, Fotso’s lawyers said their client was ready to continue paying the money. They regretted that as soon as Fotso started paying the money, the court ordered for the sealing of his bank accounts. They said Fotso pleaded with the court to unseal the bank accounts in vain. Their client, they went on, even went ahead and told Government to take his compound in his native Badjoun village as part of the reimbursement process, to no avail.

The defence lawyers told reporters during the press briefing at the Yaounde Hilton Hotel that the court was determined to slam their client at all costs.

They enumerated a series of controversial decisions to drive home their claim that the court was violating the rights of the defence. It was on account of this violation that the defence lawyers pulled out of the court in anger on February 9. The lawyers, Barrister Martin Luther Achet Nagnigni and Alexandre Parfait Mandeng, accompanied by some pupil lawyers, tabled a letter to the President of the court, stating why they were pulling out of the matter.

The three foreign lawyers, who were also defending Fotso, also pulled out. They are Barrister Dominique Inschaupe, Michael W. Bulher et Benedicte Graulle. The lawyers said the court was involved in manipulations that violated the right of defence and could only lead to the delivery of a parody of justice against their client. They equally accused the court of refusing to acknowledge the fact that their client paid in some money into State coffers.

The Post learnt that one of the immediate causes of their pulling out of court was the fact that the court rejected a genuine medical certificate on January 27, which indicated that their client was too sick to appear in court. The Chief Medical Officer of the Gendarmerie Headquarters, SED, where Fotso is detained, issued a medical certificate.

Dr. Anne Ngabala, a lieutenant-colonel is said to have issued the document after a critical examination of the patient. After rejecting the medical certificate, the court went on with the trial in Fotso’s absence, despite the fact that he was lying critically sick at the Yaounde General Hospital.

In an exclusive interview recently with a local French language tabloid known as ‘Essingan’, Fotso revealed that the authorities of the hospital expelled him last January 31, in tandem with what he said was the hidden agenda of the court.

He quoted the Director of the hospital, Prof. Claude Ndam Njitoyap, as saying that he sent Fotso away from the hospital because of pressure from hierarchy.
It is reported that the Director of the hospital did not budge even when some three doctors protested against what they said was an unethical and inhuman decision against the ailing Fotso. Thus, the prisoner was denied treatment.

Fotso collapsed in the first two days in court when he was told that, even though he had refunded 1.752 billion, he would not be let off the hook of justice because he was found guilty of embezzling FCFA 69 billion. After listening to such pronouncements, despair gripped Fotso. He crashed to the floor of the court and was carried away for medical attention.

Observers hold that even after refunding the money an accused is said to have embezzled, there is no guarantee that the court will automatically stop judicial proceedings against the accused person.

Article 8 of the law creating the Special Criminal court provides that prosecution of an accused person who has refunded the money he is accused of having embezzled can be stopped on orders of the Minister of Justice and Keeper of the Seals.

The one person that has benefitted from the application of the article is the former Minister of Basic Education, Haman Adama. She was released from pre-trial detention in Kondengui prison after she reportedly reimbursed the amount of money she was accused of embezzling.

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