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Crime & Punishment of Monday, 13 January 2014

Source: Cameroon Tribune

Crédit Foncier Trial Witnesses Testify Next Month

Former Finance Minister, Polycarpe Abah Abah and co-accused were at the Special Criminal Court on January 9, 2014.

The Special Criminal Court in Yaounde on January 9, 2013, in the case opposing the State of Cameroon to former Finance Minister, Polycarpe Abah Abah and former General Manager of the Housing Loan Scheme (Crédit Foncier du Cameroun), Joseph Edou and others, decided that each of the parties will present eight witnesses as from the next hearing fixed for February 18, 2014.

The panel of judges comprising Presiding Judge, Mr Justice Yap Abdou, Mr Justice Francis Moukoury and Mrs Justice Virginie Eloundou, took the decision after heated debate on the admissibility of lists of witnesses produced beyond the legal deadline by the Civil Party (the State of Cameroon) led by Barrister Maloka Dikongue.

President Yap Abdou said the compromise secured between the defence and the legal department in the previous hearing on December 18, 2013 prompted him to usher in a regime of tolerance that enabled the admissibility of lists of witnesses including those of some co-accused. The hearing that was adjourned to February 18, 2014 will launch testimonies by prosecution witnesses.

During the hearing on December 18, 2013, Polycarpe Abah Abah pleaded not guilty to five counts of embezzling the total sum of FCFA 4.9 billion between 1999 and 2004 alongside others such as the former Director General of the Housing Loan Scheme, Joseph Edou. The hearing was adjourned to January 9, 2014 to determine the number of witnesses per party after an excited debate between defence counsels led Barrister Jean Calvin Billong and the Legal Department led by Advocate General Jean Claude Taghim over the late notification by the prosecution of its list of witnesses to the accused.

A compromise under Section 414 of the Criminal Procedure Code enabled the admissibility of the legal department's list of witnesses. According to the case file, Polycarpe Abah Abah is accused of embezzling FCFA 4.9 billion, representing sums not transferred to the Crédit Foncier in 2004. In connivance with Mevoulou Oyono Mballa Hélène, he retained FCFA One million from tax returns at the Directorate of Taxes; while in complicity with Sylvie Evina, he embezzled FCFA 155 million also in tax returns. The former Finance Minister also allegedly embezzled FCFA 47 million with late Joseph Tenlep Tenlep.

Together with Thérèse Elombat, he allegedly embezzled FCFA 15 million meant for Crédit Foncier between 2001 and 2002. On his part, Joseph Edou, is accused of fraudulently retaining, in concert with Meke Raphael, FCFA 260 million meant for Crédit Foncier. Between 1999 and 2000, he also allegedly misappropriated FCFA 15 million meant for Crédit Foncier in concert with Etogo Mbezele Luc Evarice. All aforementioned acts of misappropriation are offences punished under Sections 74, 96 and 184 of the Penal Code.

Polycarpe Abah Abah is currently serving a 6-year jail sentence for attempted prison escape in May 2012.