Cameroon’s ex-minister bags 25-year jail sentence

A court in Cameroon has sentenced former presidential hopeful and senior minister Marafa Hamidou Yaya to a 25-year jail term on embezzlement charges related to the botched purchase of a presidential plane in 2004.

Reuters says the court handed down the sentence early on Saturday morning after a marathon overnight trial.

The court handed the same sentence to a former director of defunct state air transport company CAMAIR, Yves Michel Fotso.

Hamidou Yaha was minister of territorial administration until he was sacked in December in a cabinet reshuffle by President Paul Biya.

He was widely believed to harbour ambitions to succeed the 79-year-old Biya.

Biya, who has been in power since 1982, launched “Operation Sparrow Hawk” in 2006 to combat corruption in the central African nation.

The drive has seen several of his former aides brought to court but critics say the anti-corruption campaign has been used to target opponents.

The court in the capital Yaounde found the two guilty of embezzling 24 billion CFA francs that was meant for the purchase of the presidential plane called “Albatross.”

In letters published after he was arrested in April, Hamidou Yaha denied he participated in any attempt to embezzle public funds and said he was a victim of a political plot.

“Investigations show that the 24 billion CFA francs … for the purchase of the aircraft were diverted by Yves Michel Fotso for personal interests,” the presiding judge said in sentencing.

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