Jean Marie Atangana Mebara, was acquitted by the Mfoundi High Court yesterday May 3, 2012 of three charges of attempts of embezzlement of State funds meant for the purchase of a presidential aircraft. His co-accused Otele Essomba Hubert Patrick was also acquitted of two charges of embezzlement while former Cameroonian Ambassador to the United States of America, Jerome Mendouga received a 10-year jail term after being declared guilty of embezzlement of FCFA 121 million still within the framework of the purchase of the presidential jet.
In a massively attended court judgement hearing that held yesterday, Thursday May 2, 2012 at the Mfoundi High Court in Yaounde, the Presiding Judge, Gilbert Schlick, opened the session by listing the charges against the accused officials. The first holding charge under review was against Messrs Jean Marie Atangana Mebara, Kevin Joseph Walls and Otele Essomba Hubert Patrick Marie for complicity and attempt to embezzle 31 million US Dollars (about FCFA 15 billion) meant for the purchase of a presidential jet and held by the American aircraft leasing firm, GIA International Incorporation.
Kevin Joseph Walls and Otele Essomba were respectively Director General and Deputy Director General of Asset Management Portfolio, APM that was commissioned in 2003 by the Jean Marie Atangana Mebara, then Secretary General at the Presidency of the Republic, to recover over FCFA 27 billion held by GIA International Inc. The latter had been given the sum of 29 million US Dollars in August 2003 to purchase a new presidential jet from the Boeing Company based in the United States of America. GIA International Inc paid only two million US Dollars to Boeing and kept the rest. Minister Atangana Mebara was accused of having ordered APM on May 14, 2003 to recover the money from GIA and keep it in GIA’s bank account instead of paying back to the national treasury.
The second charge against Atangana Mebara, Otele Essomba and Kevin Joseph Walls was for the embezzlement of the sum of FCFA 1,5 billion that was paid into APM’s bank account to settle Cameroon Airlines’ payment arrears to the aircraft leasing company ANSETT International. The third charge was against former Cameroonian Ambassador to the United States of America, Jerome Mendouga in complicity with Atangana Mebara for the embezzlement of FCFA 121 million which was the balance of the sum of FCFA 720 million disbursed to the Ambassador to negotiate with the Boeing Company for the leasing of an aircraft for the President. Besides, the 10-year jail term slammed on Ambassador Mendouga, he is also expected to pay FCFA 121 million to the State of Cameroon.
The court ruling that was handed down at about 8.30 pm yesterday ended proceedings that started in August 2008 after Atangana Mebara was arrested and remanded in custody. It was widely commented yesterday that the acquittal could be short-lived for two other charges of complicity in the embezzlement of FCFA 4 billion and five million US Dollars, respectively, still remain pending in the Examining Magistrate’s office.
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