Advocate General Taguim on April 16, 2015, provided evidence to counter allegations of tampering with charges and alleged lack of due process in filing them. The trial of the former Director of Taxes and former Finance Minister, Polycarpe Abah Abah, is yet to take off in earnest at the Yaounde-based Special Criminal Court, SCC.

He is accused by Batock Dikanda Daniel and a former journalist, now parliamentarian, William Mandio and the Ministry of Finance, of fraudulently obtaining landed property belonging to a cooperative and the State of Cameroon worth FCFA 1.8 billion. The crime was allegedly committed between 1998 and 2005 when Polycarpe Abah Abah was Director of Taxes.

In the resumed hearing on Thursday, April 16, 2015, before Mr. Justice Nyoh Matthias as lead judge and Justices Tagiyin and Adebada, Advocate General Taguim provided responses to earlier objections by the defence counsel. In his one-hour submission, he said the charges against Polycarpe Abah Abah were properly prepared and filed. For example, he said Abah Abah’s counsel was always informed two days in advance in writing each time prosecution witnesses were summoned for questioning so that he could also ask them questions, but neither he nor the lawyers showed up. Abah Abah’s lawyers had earlier alleged that they were never informed of such sessions.

On the defence’s request for copies of exhibits in the case file, he argued that according to Article 3012 of the Cameroon Criminal Procedure Code, such information is part of what is handed to judges alongside the charge file. He therefore described the defence’s allegation of concealment of evidence as unfounded as the exhibits can be accessed by them in the course of the trial. The Advocate General denied ever falsifying aspects of the charges in complicity with the Examining Magistrate, saying the total amount Abah Abah is now accused of embezzling was modified with time as more evidence was uncovered.

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Barristers Antoine Marcel Mong and Jean Marie Nouga, counsel for the former Director of Taxes had earlier told the court that the Examining Magistrate, by putting in writing that Abah Abah was being charged with embezzling FCFA 1,153,000,000 “and other amounts that might be uncovered with time,” left the door open to eventual fraud. As they had warned, he said, this later happened when they stumbled on Justice Taguim tampering with the charges on the Examining Magistrate’s computer. From then on, the amount allegedly embezzled by Abah Abah was raised to FCFA 1.8 billion, he said.

On the objection of judging a matter that had earlier been handled in 2006 by a Yaounde Magistrate Court, the Advocate General pointed out that the said trial had Polycarpe Abah Abah as civil claimant, while Peter William Mandio was the accused. But in the present matter before the SCC, Abah Abah is the defence while the State of Cameroon, through the Ministry of Finance, is the civil claimant. Justice Taguim further submitted that objections to the trial on grounds that due process was not followed should equally be dismissed because the SCC is a special tribunal that does not necessarily need to follow the procedures of ordinary courts.

Adjourning the matter to May 7, 2015, Mr Justice Nyoh Matthias said the court had taken note of the submissions of all parties, promising to take them into account at the time of passing judgement. The examination of prosecution witnesses is due to begin in the next hearing. Talking to Cameroon Tribune later, Barrister Jean Marie Nouga insisted on justice being seen to be done, adding that his team was against any attempt to tamper with the charges against their client, Polycarpe Abah Abah. On his part, Barrister Nchankou Njindam, representing the State of Cameroon, said the trial was on the right track. He added that there were a lot of allegations by the defence, with no evidence provided to support their claims.

Kimeng Hilton NDUKONG