George MBELLA (Cameroon Tribune)
Both former State officials were whisked off to the Kondengui Central Prison, Yaounde on Monday.
Former Prime Minister and Head of Government, Chief Ephraim Inoni, and former Minister of State, Minister of Territorial Administration, Marafa Hamidou Yaya, were yesterday, Monday April 16, 2012 placed under pre-trial detention by the Mfoundi High Court in Yaounde.
Both former State officials had been interrogated behind closed doors by examining magistrates as part of the judicial process in the case now popularly known as the ‘Albatross Affair.’ Investigations were launched to track down all suspects in the failed purchase of a presidential aircraft in 2003.
The swarm of reporters who had gathered in front of the premises of the Examining Judge at the Mfoundi High Court yesterday morning was suggestive of the caliber of personalities being questioned in the presence of their lawyers and spouses.
Marafa Hamidou Yaya was the first to be escorted to the court premises in the company of his spouse and defence lawyer. Later at about 11:27 am, Chief Ephraim Inoni arrived with a similar entourage. Nothing filtered from the office to give a clue to the growing crowd as to the nature of the inquiry going on inside.
At 12:00 noon, Marafa Hamidou Yaya was escorted by plain-clothes security agents into a waiting ash-colour double cabin Toyota Hilux pick up van and driven to the Kondengui Central Prison. At 1:50 pm, while the suspense continued, another person dressed in ash grey suit was whisked off from the court premises by the same escort in the same vehicle. Reports gathered revealed that the person was Michel Mekiage, a practising barrister who reportedly played a key role as government’s lawyer in the suit against former Minister Jean Marie Atangana Mebara who is prison custody. Mekiage’s detention threw a pang of speculations as to his role in the ‘Albatross Affair’.
At 2:00 pm, Chief Ephraim Inoni was seen emerging from the office in the company of his spouse, lawyer and a battery of armed gendarmes. He was placed in a Toyota Hiace bus that sped off to the Kondengui Prison.
The pre-trial detentions mark another phase in the Albatross Affair wherein several State and corporate officials are alleged to have swindled over FCFA 15 billion intended for the purchase of a presidential aircraft in 2003. Chief Ephraim Inoni and Marafa Hamidou Yaya join other suspects such as business magnate, Yves Michel Fotso, Ambassador Jerome Mendouga, former Minister Jean Marie Atangana Mebara, amongst others, at the Yaounde Central Prison.