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Saturday, October 13, 2018

Confidential: the personal fortune of Paul Biya (finally) unveiled!

We know a little more about the personal assets of the Cameroonian Head of State Paul Biya and this thanks to a report of the Catholic Committee against Hunger and for Development (CCFD-Terre Solidaire).

Published in 2013 under the theme "Restitution of ill-gotten property: an inventory", the report draws the fortune acquired by the Cameroonian president since taking power in 1982. Excerpt ...

Paul Biya took power on November 6, 1982. He took advantage, in accordance with the Cameroonian Constitution, of the resignation of his predecessor Ahmadou Ahidjo, of which he was until then Prime Minister.

It is his stay in power for more than 25 years that is questionable. The accusations of fraud punctuated the elections that extended his mandate.

In 2008, Paul Biya also changed the Constitution to become, virtually, president for life, like his neighbors Gabon and Equatorial Guinea. It has indeed blown up the lock which, since the constitutional revision of 1996, limited to two the number of presidential terms. Is he protecting himself from possible reprisals that his successors could bring against him?

Cameroon, according to the Corruption Perception Index developed by the Transparency International Association, is considered one of the most corrupt countries in the world . He even earned the title of world champion in the rankings established by TI in 1998 and 1999. Despite this poor reputation, Paul Biya refuses the creation of a Commission of Bad Things Acquired in his country to fight against corruption .

He prefers to install, on March 11, 2006, the CONAC (National Commission against Corruption), at the head of which he appointed a loyal, Paul Tessa, former minister and former Secretary General of the Presidency of the Republic. In January 2008, in order to reconcile the good graces of international donors, and probably also to settle accounts with certain ministers who were watching his place, President Biya launched a major operation "Sparrowhawk" to fight against corruption.

A list of about sixty personalities, ministers, general managers, businessmen, is published in the press for this purpose. In mid-2008, about 15 of them were arrested, tried and sentenced to heavy custodial sentences and heavy fines. Experts like Francis Dooh Collins are appointed to search the 162 million euros which, according to the government, have been diverted. Jacques Vergès was also solicited. The Cameroonian government has obtained international support in this operation, including that of the FBI, the US Federal Police.

The former US ambassador to Cameroon, Niels Marquardt, had been uncompromising on the subject: "It is not enough to publish the names of those suspected of corruption or to remove them from office. Those accused of corruption must be formally charged, prosecuted and convicted if their guilt is established. At the same time, their ill-gotten belongings must be confiscated and returned to the public treasury. "

It is for States that lend their help to track down the fortunes of foreigners, especially in tax havens, but according to the US Embassy, ​​"it is not easy because there are bleached accounts . (...) We need a lot of evidence ". Another Chancery explains that "the most difficult thing in this operation is to put everyone in prison, because more or less everyone is drenched".

What about Paul Biya and his relatives? No official information filters about them. And yet, article 56 of the Cameroonian Constitution, since its revision in January 1996 by President Paul Biya, states that "the President of the Republic, the Prime Minister, the members of the government and similar (...) must make a declaration their assets and assets, at the beginning and at the end of their mandate. "

Law No. 003 of 2006 of 25 April 2006 lists the exact persons subject to this obligation to declare assets and assets, but in May 2009, it had still not been promulgated. On the contrary, the Cameroonian president has the reputation of one of the most secret heads of state in the world.

Disappointed or even annoyed at not finding Paul Biya in the study on ill-gotten property that we published in 2007, Cameroonian associations, unions and journalists have looked into the matter. The approach is daring because, in Cameroon, the subject is taboo. In February 2008, Jean-Bosco Talla, a journalist in the private newspapers Le Front and Germinal, involved in a program to strengthen the Cameroonian civil society supported by the CCFD-Terre Solidaire, made the bitter experience.

While accompanied by a trainee, he sought to locate the heritage of a Cameroonian minister in the village of Zoétélé, camera slung over his shoulder, he was arrested, then driven from one place to another for hundreds of kilometers blindfolded and molested. It took a mobilization of civil society in Cameroon and internationally, coupled with the vigilance of the embassies of France and the United States, for Jean-Bosco Talla to be released after five days.

Also, for the launch in May 2008 of the weekly Germinal, he directs, Jean-Bosco Talla chooses to release a special issue on "L ' money and property of Paul Biya ". A highly documented investigation. The success was immediate: while the Cameroonian independent press rarely pulls more than 4,000 copies, 11,000 copies of this special issue are snapped up in a few days. In May 2009, another independent magazine, Les Cahiers de Mutations, asked: "Cameroonian assets abroad: can we repatriate the stolen money?". As we can see, the subject is currently debated in Cameroon.

And there is something. Paul Biya, who had just become head of state, was talking about his heritage. On March 16, 1983, Le Canard enchaîné unveiled two presidential acquisitions in France: one avenue Foch in Paris, the other on the Côte d'Azur in Cagnes-sur-Mer.

The Cameroonian government explains that these acquisitions are made by citizen Paul Biya and not by the president. And Paul Biya is adorned with a virtuous speech: "We must certainly resort to the moralization of public life." In May 1997, Thursday's Event estimates that the fortune of the Cameroonian president and his family is close to 70 million euros, including castles in France and Germany, in Baden-Baden.

One of his relatives, Professor Titus Edzoa, also believes that "it is the richest Cameroonian." Among French residences, the Cameroonian newspaper L'Expression evoked in 1997 that of the locality "farm woods" in Gambais (Yvelines), an estimated value of 6 million euros at the time. According to Germinal's journalists in 2008, "Paul Biya is also a shareholder in several companies. (...) To this, we must add the castle under construction, next to the United States Embassy in Yaoundé ".This information was neither confirmed nor denied by the Cameroonian President.

Paul Biya also knows how to be generous with those he loves. In addition to some highly paid French communication consultants, the Order of the Rose-Croix (Amorc), considered in France as a sect, is the subject of the largesse of the Cameroonian presidency. Raymond Bernard, former Secretary General of AMORC and founder of the renovated Order of the Temple (ORT), considered as the "cradle" of the Order of the Solar Temple, is awarded 5.6 million French francs on March 2 1990, then 11.2 million francs from 1992 to 1998, all through Cameroon's National Hydrocarbons Corporation (SNH).

According to French justice, Raymond Bernard would have thus constituted a patrimony of 20 million francs, without having "never worked". Similarly, the Paris headquarters of an esoteric organization created by Raymond Bernard, the Sovereign Order of the Initiatory Temple (OSTI), was acquired at 22, rue Beaunier in the 14th arrondissement of Paris thanks to an interest-free loan from a amount of 40 million French francs granted by the Cameroonian President.

According to Africa Confidential of October 2005, taking over the work of a London NGO, the largesse of Paul Biya would also serve to soften the opposition: the opposition leader John Fru Ndi would have accumulated a fortune of more than 125 million. dollars, of which "more than 70% of the money comes from his political deals with the head of the Cameroonian state in office", in particular "between June 2002 and 2005". John Fru Ndi denied.

Some also suspect the strong man of Yaoundé to use prêtenoms to manage his fortune, especially in Switzerland. He lives there regularly and his daughter Anastasie Brenda Eyenga Biya studies at the College du Léman in Versoix, a few kilometers from Geneva. The African Independent newspaper, which is particularly critical of the Biya government, also believes that the president's son, Franck Biya, has a key role in the management of the family patrimony. According to this newspaper, he would earn "9 billion CFA francs a month in the mafia of the wood" (13.7 million euros).

Its role in logging is, in fact, particularly disparaged: allocation of concessions to its companies (including Forestry Engineering) in the greatest opacity, tax evasion, non-compliance with environmental constraints, questionable management of funds of its companies...

Monegasque naturalized, son Franck would own in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, holiday resort of Marshal Mobutu, the magnificent "Villa Isis" Avenue Douine. Officially, the villa is in the name of "Immobilière du Sud Azur", a company with a capital of 1000 euros located walk of the English in Nice, whose manager is no other than a certain Emmanuel Biya ... the middle name of Franck.

In addition to logging, there are many potential sources of family enrichment.According to an extremely convenient arrangement, the Finance Act authorized the President, until 1994, "in case of need, to collect and assign by decree to an off-budget special account all or part of the profits of state enterprises" . According to Thursday's event, "the evaporation of 2.3 billion French francs [350 million euros] for the period 1988-1993, as well as the tax evasion outside Cameroon, 20 billion French francs" [3 billion euros] between 1988 and 1993 gives an idea of ​​the amounts diverted. Said evaporation affects all sectors.

In the oil field, a US firm estimates losses around 350 million euros between 1988 and 1993. Paris sees nothing wrong, according to Elf Aquitaine's former boss Loic Le Floch-Prigent: " Paul Biya takes power only with the support of Elf to contain the English-speaking community of this country. The Elf affair has de facto lifted some of the veil on the great corruption surrounding oil contracts. In 1992, Elf allegedly lent more than 80 million euros to Cameroon's national hydrocarbons company (SNH), for the benefit of Paul Biya, via a bank in the Virgin Islands. In return, Elf secured a supply of oil in advance and earned a commission of more than 20 million euros through Alfred Sirven.

Ten years later, the accounts managed by Alfred Sirven were again credited with $ 25 million in other oil prefinancing operations with Cameroon. On March 21, 2007 again, the CEO of the Total group was heard by the Financial Crimes Enforcement Brigade in Paris for a corruption case in Cameroon.For the Cameroonian novelist Mongo Beti, "the French oil policy in Africa, it is (...) the quest, on the backs of Africans, the energy independence of France".

In the banking sector, Paul Biya and his first wife, Jeanne Irène, were also criticized very directly for having bankrupted, by dint of looting, the Cameroon Bank Corporation (SCB), the country's leading banking institution in the United States. 1980s. Former SCB director Robert Messi Messi, now exiled to Canada, accuses the presidential couple of stealing more than 9 million euros from the bank to buy villas, finance the presidential palace, the airstrip and a golf course designed by architect Cacoub.

After 1994 and the revision of the law authorizing the presidential pot, the "distractions of public money", as they say in Cameroon, have not stopped however: between 1998 and 2004, they would exceed 2.8 billion euros, according to the services of the Cameroon State Supreme Audit. In addition, some Cameroonian newspapers wonder if, using nominees, the Cameroonian president would not have set his sights on the exploitation of bauxite. By an agreement of January 13, 2006, the Cameroonian government ceded the exclusivity of bauxite mining to the company Hydromine Inc., registered in Delaware, which has no expertise in mining.

Some journalists conclude that Peter Brigger, president of Hydromine, who specializes in renting luxury apartments in Switzerland, would be the hidden manager of the Cameroonian president's fortune.Despite persistent suspicions around the Cameroonian head of state, the support of the French government to Paul Biya has not faded since 1982.

Since the 1950s, where he was working with Dr Aujoulat against the independence of Cameroon, Paul's attachment Biya in France has apparently not faded. Under its rule, Cameroon remains indeed for the State and the French companies a market and a determining anchor point in Central Africa. The Cameroonian population is enraged not to benefit more from the phenomenal wealth that surrounds it.

Every year, during New Year's Mass, the Archbishop of Douala, Christian Tumi, echoes this exasperation, urging the Cameroonian rulers to "return the stolen money to the coffers of the State".