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Cameroon former health minister gets 20 years for graft

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

A Cameroonian court has sentenced a former health minister to 20 years in prison for corruption over a fake contract to deliver mosquito nets to hospitals, legal sources said Tuesday.

The country's special criminal court, charged with fighting high-level graft, on Monday found Urbain Olanguena Awono guilty of embezzling more than 80 million CFA francs (122,000 euros, $162,000).

Co-accused Yves Rodrigue Soue Mbella, who is on the run, was sentenced in absentia to life in prison.

Soue Mbella had won successive public contracts to supply the insecticide-treated mosquito nets to hospitals in northern Cameroon, but never delivered the anti-malaria treatment despite being paid in full by the government.

The judges found that Olanguena "facilitated" the misappropriation of the funds by signing the paperwork that allowed Soue Mbella to get paid by Cameroon's state Treasury.

The former minister always denied the charges, claiming that his signature had been faked.

One of Olanguena's lawyers, Antoine Marcel Mong, slammed the verdict as "politically motivated".

"We are not surprised by the ruling convicting our client," he told AFP. "Nonetheless, we will appeal."

Olanguena, who has been in detention since 2008, was already sentenced in June to 15 years over a separate case involving the embezzlement of public funds.

The Cameroonian government in 2006 launched a high-profile campaign to tackle rampant corruption, arresting a number of prominent figures including former ministers and heads of public companies.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130813/cameroon-former-health-minister-gets-20-years-graft