Cameroon presidential hopeful held over plane purchase


Cameroon presidential aspirant Marafa Hamidou Yaha and former prime minister Ephraim Inoni were detained in an investigation into the 2004 purchase of a presidential plane called “Albatross”, an official and state radio said.

Hamidou Yaha was minister of territorial administration until he was sacked in December in a cabinet reshuffle by President Paul Biya. He was still widely seen as harbouring ambitions to succeed the 79-year-old Biya.
“All I can tell you is that the two were arrested and are being detained for their alleged role in the fraudulent deal to buy a presidential plane, the Albatross, in 2004,” a court official told Reuters on condition of anonymity, Reuters reports.

Cameroon state radio confirmed the two officials had been arrested. Two warders at the central prison in Yaounde told Reuters they had escorted Hamidou Yaya into the prison on Monday.

Local media have for years reported on the scandal over the airplane that began when a delegation of officials was sent to the United States to buy a presidential plane christened “Albatross”.

The aircraft developed mechanical problems during its inaugural flight with the president, his wife and children onboard and had to make an emergency landing. It was later revealed that the plane was an old aircraft which had been given a fresh coat of paint.

At the time, Marafa Hamidou Yaya was secretary-general at the presidency and Ephraim Inoni was his deputy. Inoni later went on to be prime minister from 2004 to 2009.

Hamidou Yaya has held several senior government positions and was seen as a potential successor to Biya.

The case has already landed another former minister, Jean-Marie Atangana Mebara, a former ambassador to the United States, Jerome Mendouga, and the former director general of Cameroon’s national carrier, Yves Michel Fotso, in jail for their roles.