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Four Slammed 57 Years For Stealing Anti-HIV/AIDs Funds 

By Joe Dinga Pefok

The Wouri High Court July 13, slammed Dr. Rudolf Mbangué, former Coordinator of the Littoral Branch of the National Technical Committee for the Fight against HIV/AIDS, and his collaborators Tchouamani, Catherine Linwa and Essama Tobie a total of 57 years in jail for embezzlement of public funds.

Dr. Mbangué and co-accused were charged to court for allegedly embezzling FCFA 205 million, part of funds the World Bank granted the Ministry of Public Health, which allocated it for the campaign against HIV/AIDS in the Littoral Region. Dr. Mbangué, Tchouamani and Catherine Linwa were each sentenced to 15 years imprisonment, while Essama (cashier) received 12 years. The State Prosecutor in the matter had prayed the court to sentence all the four to life imprisonment.

The court, in its ruling, also ordered the four accused persons to pay a total FCFA 205.780.000 to the Ministry of Public Health, which was the civil party in the matter. Of this sum, FCFA 205 million was said to be a reimbursement of what the Ministry lost, while FCFA 780.000 was said to be interest. The four were also ordered to pay court charges totaling to FCFA 10.231.550, failure of which each of them would serve an additional five years in prison.

209 Fake Associations Created

The embezzled funds, it should be recalled, was to be disbursed to credible NGOs, associations or groups engaged in the fight against HIV/AIDS. But in the course of the hearing of the case, the court was told that Dr. Mbangué and his two close collaborators, Tchouamani and Catherine Linwa, created 209 fake NGOs and associations across the Littoral.

The court was told that the fake NGOs and associations were given different addresses as existing in different towns and villages. Some of the groups had the same names as Mbangué and his collaborators apparently ran out of new names. The court also heard that after the creation of the fake groups, much of the funds were "disbursed" to these fake groups especially in 2005 while Mbangué was in his second year in office.

As for the financial officer of the committee, Essama, he was charged more with complicity, although he denied the accusation. He said he was merely performing his duty by paying out what was approved by hierarchy, and that it was not his duty to verify the authenticity of the different recipients.

The court, however, was not convinced of Essama’s innocence considering that most of the files of the fake NGOs and associations, to which he had disbursed money, had glaring cases of irregularities. It is worthy to recall that the then Minister of Public Health, Urbain Olanguena Awono, sacked Dr. Mbangué on December 27, 2005 for alleged financial improprieties.

Dr. Mbangué and his three other colleagues were later arrested in May 2006, and were since then been in detention at the New Bell Prison. Interestingly, Olanguena Awono himself was later fired on September 7, 2007, arrested on charges of embezzlement of the HIV/AIDS funds and has since been in detention at the Kondengui Prison in Yaounde.

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