A former Cameroon mines minister and two aides found guilty of corruption must now serve life in jail after an appeals court lifted their existing 30-year terms, state radio reported on Saturday. Defence lawyers walked out in protest before the judgements were read, saying the case had become politically motivated.
Former minister Alphonse Siyan Siewe, who was also general manager of the port of Douala, and a dozen other officials were originally jailed as part a graft crackdown launched in 2006. Nestling in-between west and central Africa, Cameroon is seen as one of the region’s most promising economies but bodies like the World Bank have warned that local and foreign investments have been hamstrung by rampant corruption.
“The appeals court at Bonanjo in Douala … sentenced the former general manager of the Douala port authority to life imprisonment,” state radio reported, confirming that Siyam Siewe and two port colleagues were jailed for embezzlement. Berlin-based Transparency International has consistently rated Cameroon amongst the most corrupt nations in the world.
Although the country has slightly improved its standing since topping the list in 1998 and 1999, under pressure at home and abroad, President Paul Biya launched “Operation Sparrowhawk” to crack down on graft in 2006. Siyam Siewe was one of the first high profile figures targeted by the operation but critics say the crackdown has been used as much to settle political scores as anything else.
SOURCED FROM REUTERS