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SONARA corruption scandal case drawing to a close as prosecution presents final submissions

The embezzlement case against former SONARA GM, Charles Metouck and others at the Special Criminal Court in Yaounde, is drawing to a close. According to the prosecution at the Yaounde-based Special Criminal Court, SCC, Charles Metouck, the former General Manager of the National Oil Refinery, SONARA in Limbe, and three co-accused, should be found guilty of embezzling FCFA 514 million. Advocate General, Tagiyin Jean Claude, spoke while presenting his final submissions during the hearing of August 26, 2015.

In his lengthy presentation, which revisited highlights of the trial, including testimonies of witnesses, Mr. Justice Tagiyin said by endorsing a cheque for FCFA 108 million to Viking Ltd for a controversial oil deal, Metouck had caused the State to lose the amount. He averred that the former GM had no authority to pay the money. Similarly, Metouck caused the loss of FCFA 406 million by the State after he paid the amount to Ecobank Development Corporation with headquarters in Lome, Togo without deducting taxes at source. In his submission, Counsel for SONARA, Barrister Ndam Jean Bertrand, while supporting the position of the Legal Department, said the embezzlement of FCFA 406 million was only discovered after officials of the Supreme State Audit Office checked the accounts of SONARA in 2011. 

He noted that the task was hitherto rendered difficult given Ecobank Development Corporation’s base abroad. On his part, the lawyer for the State, Barrister Sama Francis Asanga, said Article 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code states that theft of money in a corporation where the State has majority of the shares is considered as embezzlement of public funds. He said this was the case in SONARA where the State has 84 per cent of shares. He added that the trial had respected all norms of equity and fairness by holding in public, with the accused given the opportunity to freely defend themselves.

The trial of the former General Manager of the National Oil Refinery, Charles Metouck, began on Wednesday, February 18, 2015. Metouck and others are accused of embezzling over FCFA 514 million. The other accused are Ngalle Mouelle Noé, Edinguele Edinguele Jean Joule and Dikoume Albert Léonard. Meanwhile, charges against Tiako Etienne were later dropped after his reimbursement in January 2015 of FCFA 108 million he and others embezzled.ppppp The remaining defendants are charged with aiding and abetting the embezzlement of over FCFA 108 million. The amount was reportedly fraudulently retained from the signing by SONARA of an oil lifting contract with Viking Ltd. Meanwhile, over FCFA 406 million, in taxes due to the State, was allegedly fraudulently retained by Charles Metouck after paying the amount to Ecobank Development Corporation.

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