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French Companies, Represented By Michel Thierry Atangana, Claim FCFA 316.8 billion From Cameroon


According to documents consulted by Journal du Cameroun, the financial expert and ex-convict, Michel Thierry Atangana, is in discussion with the Cameroonian authorities for the settlement of debts owed to French companies, within the framework of the Steering and Monitoring Committee for Road Works.



Created in the early 1990s,this Committee which includes French companies (Dumez, Socamat, EJL, ETPC, Jean Lefebvre, France Telecom…), according to a note recently sent to the Presidency of the Republic, is demanding payment of a debt today estimated at 316.8 billion FCFA.

This debt, we learn, is made up of the nominal amount (26.4 billion CFA francs), plus interest due to the delay caused by the administration in accordance with the regulation and final settlement agreement signed between the Republic of Cameroon, represented by the Minister of Finance, chairman of the Commission on State Arrears and the French companies mentioned above.

This agreement sets the interest rate at 10.5% per annum, from the date of the due date not respected by one of the parties until the effective date of payment.

To understand the origin of this debt, it is necessary to know that during the 1980s, Cameroon experienced one of the most serious economic crises in its history, marked in particular by the sharp decline in credits allocated to the public investment budget and the accumulation of unpaid debts to companies, especially those in the building and public works sector. These companies had then decided, at least as far as European and French companies were concerned, to leave Cameroon.

In this context, the services of Michel Thierry Atangana were requested by the State of Cameroon. The latter undertook to convince French companies to maintain their activities in the country. To do so, it was first a question of regularising their debts and establishing payment schedules. This operation resulted in 1989 in the signing of agreements for the regularisation and final settlement of debts between the State of Cameroon and the supplier companies.

Non-compliance with deadlines

However, the schedule adopted was not respected by Cameroon and the late interest rates contributed to the increase in the amount of the debt. In view of this situation, the President of the Republic created Copisupr and appointed Michel Thierry Atangana to head it.

For the mobilisation of resources, Copisupr needed bank certificates which in turn required the concentration of assets of partner companies in demand deposits. Two escrow accounts were therefore opened and managed jointly by the Paymaster General of Douala, representing the State of Cameroon, and the French oil companies in particular. They were to transfer the special tax on petroleum products into these escrow accounts.

While the mobilisation of partner companies was effective and the escrow accounts were credited with the residues of the cessions and compensations and the direct contributions of the said companies, the Cameroonian government put an end to these operations, on the grounds that these conventions doubled the debts due to the devaluation of the CFAF in 1994.

Three years later, when Michel Thierry Atangana was arrested for embezzlement of public funds, the contributions of the partner companies were returned to the Treasury following a judge’s order to close the escrow accounts.

However, faced with recurrent requests from Copisupr stakeholders, notably French companies, the Presidency of the Republic of Cameroon ordered several investigations by its specialised services. These concluded that Cameroon owes the plaintiffs CFAF 316.8 billion.

In the meantime, Mr Atangana, who was arrested in 1997 and sentenced to 20 years in prison for embezzlement of public funds, was released in February 2014 by presidential decree. He has always denied the facts.

Published on 03.01.2023

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