Former Prime Minister Ephraim Inoni 66, former Secretary General at the presidency Jean Marie Atangana Mebara 59, were both sentenced to 20 years imprisonment yesterday by the Yaounde Special Criminal Tribunal. Englishman Kevin Walls, Director General of Aircraft Porfolio Management (APM) was sentenced to life imprisonment in absentia. They were found guilty of conspiracy in the embezzlement of 284.7 m FCFA, approximately $31 M in a botched 2001 deal to purchase a new plane for the travelling president Paul Biya of Cameroon.
Inoni and Mebara were each also ordered to pay 85M FCFA in damages to the state treasury
Through some really unorthodox methods, the trio among others were accused of instead hiring an old rickety plane (The Albatros) in which president Biya, his wife Chantal and two children almost died during its inaugural flight to Paris, France. Mr Biya was so shaken by the experience that he refused to ever enter the plane again and ordered it returned. The money that had been paid to APM however, dissapeared.
Inoni Ephraim was Assistant Secretary General at the Presidency and Jean Marie Atangana Mebara was Secretary General and they were both involved in the aborted plans to acquire the presidential plane.
President Paul Biya shocked the whole country when he ordered the arrest and detention of Ephraim Inoni and Marafa Hamidou Yaya his former close associates on April 15 2012. Former Territorial Administration Minister Marafa H Yaya and Yves Mitchel Fotso, Director of the now defunct Cameroon Airlines were both sentenced to 25 years imprisonment on September 22 2012 for the same crime by the Yaounde High Court.
Lawyers for both men say they will appeal the sentences.