in Cameroon, how the wife of a mining minister became a shareholder in an Australian mining group

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In this month of September 2009, a major mining project is under the spotlight in Cameroon. Australian company Legend Mining Ltd. has just bought 90% of the shares of the Cameroonian company Camina SA (Cameroon Mining Action SA). The latter holds the permits for iron exploration on the Ngovayang concession, in the Center region, one of the two major mining projects underway in Cameroon. While the authorities are praising this agreement, which will allow the development of a still essentially artisanal mining sector, another contract is being tied out of sight and away from television cameras.

According to the “Pandora Papers”, an investigation based on a leak of documents transmitted to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) including The world is a partner, Marie Gisèle Minlo Momo, wife of Babel Ndanga Ndinga, then Minister of Mines, Industry and Technological Development (2007-2011), acquires shares in Legend Mining Ltd. In a document dated December 27, 2009, Thérèse Edima, a shareholder of Camina SA whose profile and occupation remain unclear, sells “Irrevocably »His actions to Mme Momo. The minister’s wife thus becomes a shareholder of Legend Mining Ltd. The transaction takes place in the presence of numerous witnesses, as evidenced by the signatures at the bottom of the document, including that of Brett White, senior executive of the Australian company.

To read : “Pandora Papers”: a world dive into the secrets of offshore finance

Asked by The World Africa, Babel Ndanga Ndinga, now a senator and influential member of the Democratic Rally of the Cameroonian People (RDPC, in power) confirms that his wife has indeed obtained actions. How could this be done when he was a minister and thus responsible for granting various mining permits? This agreement ” had nothing to do “With his function and himself” had nothing to do with the transfer “, He hastens to clarify. ” I have forgotten everything. I can’t remember what happened ten or twelve years ago He said before hanging up.

At Legend Mining Ltd. – which withdrew in 2014 from the Ngovayang iron project in favor of Indian steel giant Jindal Steel and Power Ltd. -, the current Managing Director Mark Wilson explains that the company “ had no knowledge of employment or marital status »By Marie Gisèle Minlo Momo. “It’s impossible to believe, they couldn’t ignore it”, estimates Landry Chekoua, in charge of the mining, biodiversity and energy program of the Cameroonian NGO Forest and Rural Development (Foder) which has been investigating the Cameroonian mining sector for many years.

” Due diligence “

According to him, when a foreign company settles in Cameroon for a mining project, it creates a company under Cameroonian law or buys shares in a local company belonging to ” most often to the regime’s pundits, ministers, deputies, senators, relatives of the President of the Republic, who grabbed mining permits “.

The whole sector would thus be plagued by “Influence peddling and corruption”, deplores the expert. In fact, in Cameroon, a country regularly classified by Transparency International as one of the most corrupt in the world, many ministers, members of their families and general managers of public enterprises are now in jail for having embezzled public funds. However, according to article 66 of the Cameroonian Constitution, these officials are obliged to declare their property at the beginning and at the end of their mandate. A rule whose implementing decree is slow to be published, which favors embezzlement. What’s more, “The law does not require a minister to declare the interest of a relative in a mining project », Regrets Landry.

Many questions remain unanswered. Did Marie Gisèle Minlo Momo get her shares because of the position of power that her husband held at the time? Were the permits granted to Camina SA in return for a sale of the shares to the Minister’s wife? What were her links with Thérèse Edima? Asked by The World Africa, Mme Momo, who is also a promoter of Gold Label Mining, a gold mining company in the eastern region of Cameroon, assured that he was ” more in this case “And promised to give more details after” having asked for advice “. But she no longer answered our calls.

As for Guillaume Neou Tela, Managing Director of Camina SA, he did not respond to our multiple requests. This traditional chief of the Western region was however one of the witnesses of the transaction between the wife of the former minister of mines and Thérèse Edima. ” This case is emblematic of the opacity that reigns in the raw materials sector. It is all the more deplorable that an Australian mining company does not bother to do due diligence and blatantly claims that it has no responsibility to check whether its money could fuel corrupt networks. », Regrets Adria Budry Carbo, investigator on the networks of raw materials at the NGO Public Eye.

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