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Former Cameroon airlines boss slapped with lifetime jail term for graft

Former Cameroon airlines boss slapped with lifetime jail term for graft

Cameroon

Former director general of Cameroon’s defunct national carrier Camair, Yves Michel Fotso, has been sentenced to life imprisonment for embezzling close to $56 million between 2000 and 2003 while in charge of the company.

Fotso became a target of the “Sparrowhawk” anti-corruption campaign launched in 2006 under strong pressure from Cameroon’s foreign donor partners, the Vanguard news website reports.

It further says that a large number of people, including other heads of state-owned firms and former government ministers, have been arrested.

Legal sources familiar with the Special Criminal Court (SCC) – set up to try those accused of massive corruption – confirmed that Fotso created three front companies to rent aircraft to the airline. The judges also accused him of having made fraudulent withdrawals from Camair’s account at the Commercial Bank of Cameroon (CBC).

The former head of Camair has always maintained his innocence. His lawyers denounced “procedural flaws”.

This is not Yves Michel Fotso’s first brush with the law. In September 2012, Fotso was handed a 25-year jailterm for embezzling $29 million (over 16 billion CFA francs) paid in 2001 by Cameroon in a botched deal to purchase a presidential jet.

In January 2013, the charges against him were dropped after the repayment of 230 million CFA francs (350,000 euros).

Operation “Sparrowhawk” is a name given to the anti-graft swoop. It is a vast judicial operation against corruption in the country, initiated by former Prime Minister Ephraim Inoni, under pressure from international partners.

The Cameroonian government put Camair into liquidation in 2005, before launching Camair-Co, which is also confronted with serious financial difficulties, Vanguard says.