A senior public official (SDO) that admitted to the possession of elephant meat last year in one of our cases and avoided prosecution so far was sent to early retirement. We have fought for justice to take place, so far, as involvement of local authorities in illegal activities makes much of the corruption in the forest sector. Bear in mind that till not so far ago the prefect boasted of awaiting a promotion to a governor position, and while threatening our legal adviser, his wife shouted – “it is not for this that my husband will lose his job”. So this “early retirement” was definitely unexpected. What made this case more interesting for us is the fact that conservation NGOs regularly paid the SDO to participate in meetings, using public funds to fill his pockets as he makes speeches about the great work of these NGOs. We will continue to push for his prosecution as well as use this case to fight against the per diem system that at time can amount to a bribing scheme fuelling corruption.
A major dealer was arrested with 10 hippo teeth initially presenting them as ivory in Yaounde – Center Region. He has suppliers of products of protected animal species especially ivory in Douala. During his arrest, he tried to bribe the arresting officials, offering them 200.000 Frs. (about $400) for his release. Irregularities were observed during and after the writing of the complaint report - the officials from the MINFOF Central Regional Delegation and the National Anti- Poaching Unit refused to sign the complaint report thereby highlighting suspicion of corruption. The official from the National Anti-Poaching unit later signed the complaint report after much pressure from LAGA.
In other operations, 2 well known poachers/dealers were arrested for killing a chimp and trading in its meat in Yabassi – Littoral Region after being denounced by the villagers themselves because of the high level of poaching that was being carried out by the dealers; this operation was carried out with MINFOF Delegation - Yabassi. An ivory dealer with connections to other main dealers in Douala - Littoral Region was arrested in Foumban – West Region with 4 worked tusks and 1 civet skin. A repeated offender was arrested with a freshly killed gorilla in Lomie – East Region. The gorilla was killed in the Dja reserve where he mostly does poaching. A principal Internet wildlife dealer engaged in fraud and illegal wildlife trade over the Internet was arrested in Bamenda – North West Region. He was arrested for falsifying government documents and CITES Permits that he used to lure a victim in Canada to pay for a chimp which he did not have. His connection to other forms of fraud including illegal immigration and adoption scams is still being investigated. He had already received $150 from another victim in USA and had started with other victims in Ukraine and Spain.
LAGA received high recognition in the fight against corruption this month, LAGA Director was invited to present LAGA’s work in the US organized African anti-corruption seminar in Douala that included judiciary and anti corruption commissions from several countries. As the only NGO in the seminar LAGA’s experience has been examined in fighting corruption in the judiciary and calling upon national anti-corruption bodies in Africa to develop partnerships with civil society and mechanisms to maintain their institutions free of corruption. LAGA’s work has been lauded.