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« Book Review: Indigenous Minorities & Good Governance in Cameroon | Main | How the Law Governing Legislative Elections Largely Predetermines Election Results »

June 29, 2007

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Ambe Johnson

Cameroon jails top party man for 50 years for fraud

By Tansa Musa

YAOUNDE, June 29 (Reuters) - A Cameroon court has jailed a ruling party official for 50 years for a $27 million fraud, the most high-profile case yet in a clampdown on rampant corruption.

Emmanuel Gerard Ondo Ndong is one of the 12-member Political Bureau of the ruling Cameroon People's Democratic Movement (CPDM) of veteran President Paul Biya, who launched a graft crackdown under pressure from foreign donors.

Ondo Ndong is the first to stand trial out of 24 senior state officials, including one former government minister, who were detained in February 2006.

Prosecutors said Ondo Ndong had bought seven luxury vehicles, 12 houses, a hotel and building plots in the capital Yaounde and stashed more stolen money in foreign bank accounts.

After a three-month trial, the High Court convicted Ondo Ndong of embezzlement and complicity to embezzle 13 billion CFA francs ($26.67 million) while he was general manager of the Fonds Special d'Equipement et d'Intervention Communal (FEICOM), a state fund for local councils.

It sentenced 13 other former FEICOM staff to jail terms of 10 years or more for their part in the fraud. Ondo Ndong's three closest associates during his 2000-2005 tenure were jailed for 48 years each.

The court ordered the group to pay back the 13 billion CFA francs to the state, along with a further 1 billion in damages to FEICOM, and ordered the seizure of Ondo Ndong's assets.

Those convicted must also pay for the judgment against them to be published in local media.

Defence lawyer Ngono Mbah said the sentences were too severe and disproportionate to the crimes and he would appeal.

But prosecutor Louis Gabriel Eyango said he also planned to appeal -- to have the sentences increased.

Eyango's team initially accused the group of embezzling more than 50 billion CFA francs ($103 million), but the court lowered the figure to 13 billion.

Anti-graft lobby Transparency International ranked the oil-producing central African country bottom in its annual Corruption Perceptions Index in 1999, but Cameroon has clawed its way up since, placing 138 out of 163 countries last year.

Three weeks ago the government said it had discovered it had been paying millions of dollars a month to 10,000 fake pensioners and 20,000 "ghost workers" -- civil servants who had either died or were drawing a double salary.

That was in addition to 45,000 non-existent salaried civil servants uncovered in a census last year.

© Reuters 2007. All Rights

Té la mà Maria

please visit blog, thank you

nlatane

Just as well. I hope Ondo Ndong is also made to give back the grand loot of his brigandage. What does the Cameroon economy gain when an old man like Ondo Ndong remains behind bars, and the money he stole is shashed away for his family to enjoy the loot? We need more legislation to safeguard against guilty criminals keeping the loot of their crimes.

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