Fri, 27 Jul 2012 Cameroon

Cameroon ex-minister tried in botched presidential jet buy

Marafa Hamidou Yaya.  By Reinnier Kaze AFPFileMarafa Hamidou Yaya. By Reinnier Kaze (AFP/File)
27 JUL 2012 LISTEN

YAOUNDE (AFP) - A Cameroon court has started the trial of former interior minister Marafa Hamidou Yaya who is accused of embezzling $29 million dollars intended as a downpayment on a presidential jet.

The trial began Thursday with two witnesses who gave evidence against Marafa, who is on trial with five co-accused. The hearing ran late into the night and is due to continue on Friday with ten more prosecution witnesses.

Marafa and his co-accused, including the head of the now defunct flag carrier Camair, Yves Michel Fotso, are accused of stealing 23.6 million euros allocated in 2001 as a first payment for a Boeing plane for President Paul Biya.

Cameroon then rented another plane called the Albatross but this proved defective during a first flight with the presidential family and was forced to make an emergency landing.

At the beginning of May, a former ambassador to the United States, Jerome Mendouga, was jailed for 10 years in connection with the same affair.

Biya, who has been in power since 1982, has launched a major drive against corruption, which has seen several of his former aides brought before the courts.

He won election to a sixth term of office in October 2011 in a vote widely criticised by the opposition and diplomats as riddled with irregularities and fraud.