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Court Opens Up FCFA 1.7 Billion Racket 

By Joe Dinga Pefok
 

CameroonPostline.com — The Special Criminal Court is investigating an alleged embezzlement raised by the National Anti-Corruption Commission, CONAC, in its publication of November 29, 2012. 
 

The court is working in collaboration with the Judicial Police on an FCFA 1.7 billion that was fraudulently withdrawn from the account of RIGC Project at Afriland First Bank in Yaounde.
Kaptue Tagne, the General Manager of CAMDEV that was charged with managing the RIGC Project, has since been in detention at Kondengui Prison in Yaounde.
 

Several revelations have been made in the ongoing judicial investigation being coordinated by the Examining Magistrate at the Court, Ekanga Evou. For example, the signature of the former Minister of Forestry and Wildlife, Prof. Elvis Ngolle Ngolle, who was indicted in the CONAC report, was apparently forged.
 

Also, there appeared to have been complicity inside Afriland First Bank, in the withdrawal of the FCFA 1.7 billion. After the first session on the matter at the Special Criminal Court on January 15, seven personnel of Afriland First Bank were arrested and detained on the instruction of the Examining Magistrate. The seven personnel reportedly validated the file that led to the withdrawal of the money.
 

Afriland Repays FCFA 1.7 Billion

Presently, there is panic both at Afriland First Bank, MINFOF and other institutions that were involved in the RIGC Project. In the wake of the embarrassing development, the Board Chairman of Afriland First Bank, Paul Fokam Kamogne, convened an extraordinary Board meeting.

The Board members decided to repay the money, halt the judicial proceedings and save the image of the bank. The management of Afriland thus went ahead and issued a cheque of FCFA 1.7 billion to the State. The cheque was deposited with the Chief Registrar at the Special Criminal Court.
 

The Post has also learnt that one of the major reasons the Board of Directors of Afriland First Bank quickly repaid the money and tried to stop the case was in a bid to save the image of the bank’s former General Manager, Alamine Ousmane Mey, now Finance Minister. This is because the withdrawal of the FCFA 1.7 billion took place when Mey was General Manager of the bank. It is also being said that there is no way the ongoing judicial investigation can be completed without Ousmane Mey being interrogated.
 

It is said that, in a bank, for a big withdrawal like the FCFA 1.7 billion to take place, the General Manager ought to do the final validation. So, it is being said that Ousmane Mey seemingly validated the documents for the withdrawal. Ousmane is reported to be frantically exploiting all his connections as member of Government, to try to get the judiciary to drop the case.
 

The Post has, however, gathered that the President of the Special Criminal Court has rejected the request, saying some people have to be interrogated in relation to the racket. He has thus asked the Examining Magistrate to go ahead with the investigation. On January 25, The Post learnt, the management of Afriland First Bank was struggling to get the seven detained personnel of the bank released on bail. But by the close of the day, things had not worked out, and so the personnel spent the weekend in detention.     
 

Enter Ngolle Ngolle’s Signature
 

Besides the CONAC report, the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife had complained that the RIGC Project, which was designed by Government with the support of the World Bank, to fight poverty in the rural areas, had been stalled following  the embezzlement of more that 50 percent of the funds.
 

MINFOF prayed the court to try to recover the stolen money, so that the RIGC Project could progress and meet the set objectives. The FCFA 1.7 billion in question was part of an FCFA 3 billion package allocated for the implementation of a number of community forest projects in the country, dubbed RIGC Project, and the money was from the HIPC Fund. The committee in charge of the HIPC Fund selected a civil society structure known as CAMDEV, to manage the project.
 

The project was placed under the supervision of MINFOF, as the technical ministry. The FCFA 3 billion was put in an account at Afriland First Bank in Yaounde, and there were four signatories to the account: The then Minister of Forestry and Wildlife, Prof Elvis Ngolle Ngolle, the General Manager of CAMDEV, Kaptue Tagne, the Coordinator of the RIGC Project, Denis Bene, and the Technical Adviser to the RIGC Project, Pierre Mieuguen.
 

The CONAC report, however, stated that only the signatures of the first three personalities appeared on the documents that were used for the withdrawal of the FCFA 1.7 billion from the RIGC account. Ngolle Ngolle, who has already been interrogated in the course of the ongoing judicial investigation, says his signature was forged. Apart from the signature issue, the racketeers also reportedly used the Minister’s letterhead and official stamp.
 

First published in The Post print edition no 01404

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