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Details Of ‘Albatross’ Charges

Allying With A Foreigner To Dupe The State         

All the documents and correspondences that have incriminated Aircraft Portfolio Management Ltd, APM London and its subsidiary in Cameroon, Assets Portfolio Management Ltd, APM Cameroon, in the charges in the Albatross file were signed by the General Manager of APM London, Kevin Walls. But both the jury and the prosecution handling the file at the Mfoundi High Court have made it clear that there is no difference between APM London and APM Cameroon, in the charges, for they were, in reality, operating as one in the country.

Last year, the boss of APM Cameroon, Hubert Patrick Essomba Otele, and his lawyers argued, in vain, in court, that he was not supposed to be put on trial concerning any contract or document that was signed by Kevin Walls, and that the British ought to be the person to answer questions for his act.

The prosecution instead warned that Cameroonians, who ally with foreigners to dupe the State, are not only criminals, but are also unpatriotic citizens.

Meanwhile, the three charges against APM in court are as follows:

Attempted Embezzlement Of US $ 29 Million

The money in question is part of the total of the US $ 31 million, which the State of Cameroon, through the National Hydrocarbons Corporation, SNH, disbursed in August 2001, as advance payment for the construction of a Boeing Jet, BBJ-2, by the Boeing Company in the United States, for use by President Biya.

The US $ 31 million that was disbursed by SNH was supposed to get to the Boeing Company through Gia International Inc. Corporation in the USA that was introduced to the Cameroon Government by the former Administrator-General Manager of Cameroon Airlines, Camair, Yves Michel Fotso.

The firm was hired to play the intermediary between Cameroon and the Boeing Company. But it turned out that out of the US $ 31 million, Gia actually gave only US $ 2 million to the Boeing Company as advance payment for the BBJ-2 project. This meant, in principle, that Gia was keeping the remaining US $ 29 million.

Atangana Mebara, who replaced Marafa Hamidou Yaya as Secretary General at the Presidency in mid-2002, in November of the same year unilaterally stopped the BBJ-2 project, which Fotso was struggling to push through. A few months later, Mebara and APM seemingly hatched a game plan to secretly swindle the US $ 29 million which was supposed to be with Gia. Then came a letter dated May 6, 2003, signed by the General Manager of APM London, Kevin Walls, and addressed to the Secretary General at the Presidency, Atangana Mebara.

It strongly advised the Cameroon Government to urgently get back the US $ 29 million from Gia, for safety reasons. APM claimed that Gia, which was allegedly doing private business with Fotso, might turn around and claim that Camair owed the firm money for the leasing of planes, and then confiscate the US $ 29 million for the purported debts.

In a reply Ref. No. 248/Ct/Sg/Pr of May 14, 2003, Mabara gave the APM the authorisation to recover the US $ 29 million from Gia, on behalf of the Cameroon Government. But both parties agreed that, upon recovery of the money, APM should instead keep it in its bank account in London, for safety. So Gia was expected to pay the money into the account of APM. However, when APM contacted Gia International on the issue, the latter refused to discuss anything about the money with the former. And so the deal flopped.

The Examining Magistrate at the Mfoundi High Court, Justice Pascal Magnaguemabe, concluded that Mebara unilaterally rejected the BBJ-2 project without any legitimate reason, only to turn around with APM to try to steal the money that was disbursed to Gia for the project.

He rejected Mebara’s claim that he wanted to recover the money for the State of Cameroon. He said if the real intention of Mebara and APM was to recover the money for the State, the arrangement would have been such that Gia would pay the money into the State Treasury, and not into the accounts of APM in London. He also noted that whereas the Government officially recognised the role that Gia was supposed to play in the BBJ-2 project, the decision to bring APM into the picture was unilaterally taken by Mebara.

Suffice to say that Mebara and APM officials during that period, are being charged for attempted embezzlement of US $ 29 million. This is the first of the seven charges in the Albatross file at the Mfoundi High Court.

Embezzlement Of FCFA 1.5 Billion

The second charge, involving APM in court, is the alleged embezzlement of FCFA 1.5 billion, which is Charge No.6 in the Albatross file. It happened that in May 2003, while the then Secretary General at the Presidency, Atangana Mebara, gave authorisation to APM to recover the above mentioned US $ 29 million from Gia International, he also ordered that FCFA 1.5 billion be disbursed by SNH to APM, to settle a purported debt which Camair owed Ansett Worldwide in the United States.

The debt was allegedly for the leasing of a plane which was used by President Biya.

Following Mebara’s instruction, the then Minister of Economy and Planning, Michel Meva’a M’eboutou, addressed a correspondence to the Administrator-General Manager of SNH, Adolphe Moudidki, with Ref. No. 2003/768/CF/Minfi/Cab of May 12, 2003, to urgently disburse the sum of FCFA 1.5 billion, as instructed by the Secretary General. Curiously enough, the APM management had directed that the money be paid instead into the account of another purported firm, First CI Faring Corporation, at First Union National Bank, Roanoke, Virginia, USA.

Meanwhile, the management of SNH, upon receiving the correspondence, disbursed the money as directed on that same day (May 12), from one of its bank accounts in France. APM management was informed as soon as the transaction went through.

It should be noted that, on paper, APM was supposed to pay the sum of FCFA 1.382.954.150 to Ansett World Wide, and keep the remaining sum of over FCFA 100 million, as its fee for playing the role of intermediary. Questionable role because, records showed that in past transactions involving the Cameroon Government or Camair and Ansett, the Government disbursed monies directly to Ansett.

Meantime, the Liquidator of the defunct Camair, Bekolo and Partners, in 2009, told the team that carried out a judicial inquiry into the suspected money disbursement, that there was no trace in the accounts or records of the defunct airline company, to show that the FCFA 1.382.954.150 was paid to Ansett.

The Liquidator said all they saw concerning the money was the photocopy of an undated correspondence with a purported headed paper of Ansett, which was addressed to Camair through the General Manager of APM London.

He said the correspondence was not credible as it was clearly not in conformity with the standard regulations by which enterprises handle such matters. The correspondence was, thus, not taken into consideration by the Liquidator as evidence that the money that APM collected was paid to Ansett. Hence, Mebara and APM have been jointly charged for alleged embezzlement of FCFA 1.5 billion.

The team that carried out the judicial inquiry also inquired why APM was, in the first place, brought in to play the role of intermediary between the Cameroon Government and Ansett.

Embezzlement Of FCFA 287 Million

The third charge involving APM is the alleged embezzlement of FCFA 287.400.000. This is Charge No. 7. The matter has to do with a contract that was irregularly given to APM in January 2003, purportedly by the Presidency, “…to carry out an audit on the leasing contracts of Camair”.

In reality, the contract, as shown in a number of correspondences like that of ‘message porte’, Ref. B 2259/MESG/ PR dated January 21, 2003, signed by the then Secretary General at the Presidency, Atangana Mebara, was simply handed over to APM by Mebara and one of the then Deputy Secretaries General at the Presidency, Rene Owona. The contract was said to have been “awarded in violation of the dispositions of the text regulating public contracts”.

According to the text, that contract which was paid by the Public Treasury, was supposed to be awarded by a Ministerial Commission, chaired by the then Prime Minister, Peter Mafany Musonge.

The contract, which had a three months duration, was jointly signed on January 31, 2003, by the then Minister of Transport, John Begheni Ndeh and Kevin Walls of APM. Curiously, the entire money for the contract was paid to APM, barely a couple of days after the contract was signed. The firm reportedly ended up not doing any serious job, after collecting the money. A so-called draft report, which it produced, was simply dumped by Government officials as it was considered to be trash, and APM management never even came back for it.

The team that carried out a judicial inquiry concluded that the irregularly awarded contract that was also paid up front, was nothing but a racket to embezzle money from the State.

Joe Dinga Pefok | Thursday, April 26, 2012 | Cameroonpostonline |