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Wikileaks Cable 5: Shadowy Character Hired to Recover Embezzled Funds 

–    Received 1 million dollars to oversee operation
–    Says French spies broke into Biya’s Office
–    Predicted Inoni’s successor

This cable was wired to Washington in October 2009 during the tenure of Ambassador Niels Marquardt within the context of the anti-corruption clampdown engaged by the government of Cameroon. The cable underpins the unusual role of an erstwhile mysterious character, Francis Dooh Collins, in an operation sponsored by the Yaounde regime to recover embezzled funds stashed in foreign economies.

The first phase of the anti-corruption campaign dubbed Operation Sparrow-Hawk entered full gear in 2006 with the arrest of some leading regime barons. Following their trial and condemnation, popular request was for the amounts embezzled by the individuals to be recovered and paid into the public treasury. As we learn from this cable, it was in fulfillment of this mission that the government of Cameroon, through then Justice minister Amadou Ali, tapped the services of Francis Dooh Collins whose role the author of the cable described as “inscrutable”.

The cable profiles a series of meetings between Francis Dooh Collins and high level U.S. embassy officials within the context of U.S. –Cameroon cooperation in the recovery operation. In an assessment of the involvement of Francis Dooh Collins, the cable discredits the regime’s point man on account of “outlandish claims” and called on U.S. government to take measures to “minimize [his] wildcard factor”.

Perhaps the biggest blow that brought Dooh Collins role to disrepute were his claims that he had been using 1 million dollars from Cameroon taxpayers’ money to “entice” foreign government agencies to collaborate with him in the operation. He hit the wrong cord when he insisted that he had been paying for the services of agents in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Born to Cameroonian parents, Francis Dooh Collins later became a French citizen and allegedly worked for the French intelligence services. Based on the cable, the only reasons why he was trusted with the very sensitive job of securing Cameroon’s embezzled fortune was because of his connections and his rich parentage.

Showing off his connections to the American diplomats in Yaounde, he talked freely about President Paul Biya’s plans to sack then Prime Minister Ephraim Inoni and replace him with then assistant secretary Philemon Yang. He also boasted knowledge of the President’s intention to step-down in 2011 and handover to Amadou Ali.

Dooh Collins also gave away information on a break-in into President Biya’s office allegedly masterminded by French intelligence agents who stole a list of high profile embezzlers and leaked it to the press to discredit the President’s anti-corruption campaign.

In all, the cable reveals a obscure side to how the government of Cameroon resorts to very informal conduits and methods to carry out official business.

Continue reading below for the full unedited cable.

Subject: Cameroon Corruption Investigations: Who is Dooh Collins?
Classified: 10/11/2007
Classified By: Political Officer Tad Brown
 
Summary

Francis Dooh Collins is Justice Minister Ali’s chosen interlocutor with foreign governments regarding the anti-corruption investigation Ali is spearheading (reftels).  Although some of Dooh Collins’ outlandish claims have given us reason to doubt his credibility, he has succeeded in producing a mutual legal assistance (MLA) request signed by Ali (septel), and he is, at least for the time being, the Government of Cameroon’s (GRC) chosen agent for this purpose. 

In the interest of cultivating a more professional, sustainable anti-corruption effort from the GRC, we will seek to convince Ali to establish soon a formalized structure to handle this and similar requests for the GRC, which may also help minimize the wildcard factor of Dooh Collins’ inscrutable role.  End summary.
 
Background

Cameroonian Justice Minister Amadou Ali tapped Francis Dooh Collins to act as the Government of Cameroon’s point person for a series of anti-corruption investigations because, Ali said, Dooh Collins came from a highly reputed Cameroonian family (ref b).  Ali went on to say that he would be willing to drop Dooh Collins if the USG had adverse information or concerns about him.
 
At the Ali’s request, former Ambassador Marquardt met with Dooh Collins and his American citizen colleague, Robert Horwath, multiple times during the weeks of June 4 and 11 (ref a). Horwath has not been in any of the subsequent meetings.  Poloff met with Dooh Collins on September 12, September 24 and October 10. 

Information from Dooh Collins and Robert Horwath’s business cards and Dooh Collins Cameroonian National ID Card follows para 10-11.
 
Dooh Collins and the $1 Million

In a September 12 meeting with Poloff that lasted almost two hours, Dooh Collins expressed his general confidence that the GRC’s coordination with the USG, UK and other countries was moving forward. Dooh Collins mentioned the $1 million that Ali provided for the investigation (refs a and b) and said he would ask Ali for more. In response to Poloff’s questions as to why even $1 million was needed, Dooh Collins said the funds were needed to secure the cooperation of foreign governments and other partners in the investigation.

Dooh Collins began by explaining that the funds were used to “entice” Swiss and French intelligence to provide relevant information because, Dooh Collins said, they were otherwise busy and not interested in helping Cameroon. He went on to say he also provided funds to UK intelligence in order to secure their help and finished his explanation by asserting he was using the funds to subsidize the travel and work being done by the USG, specifically to the Department of Homeland Security’s ICE, to pay for two ICE officers to be dedicated to the Cameroon file and to subsidize their travel.

Poloff repeated this information back to Dooh Collins to verify, and Dooh Collins confirmed that he was claiming to have provided funds to USG and other agencies in order to subsidize and incentivize their cooperation with the investigation. Poloff relayed this information to DHS officials in Washington who vehemently denied Dooh Collins’ characterization (ref d).
 
When Poloff revisited this issue during an October 10 conversation, Dooh Collins said that Ali would ask Biya for a further $600,000 when Biya returns from Geneva. In response to Poloff’s asking why such large sums would be needed, Dooh Collins said that he would need to pay for a lawyer in Luxembourg and for other (unspecified) partners contributing to the investigation. (Note: In the September 12 meeting, Dooh Collins said he was working with Andre Lutgen, a lawyer in Luxembourg.  End Note.)
 

The French Factor

In the September 12 meeting with Poloff, Dooh Collins said that shortly after his birth in Cameroon his family moved to France, where he spent most of his life and, he said, worked for French intelligence. Dooh Collins reported that the French Government had conveyed to him its disapproval of this anti-corruption mission and told him not to travel on his French passport while conducting it.

Dooh Collins said the French government had previously intervened to sidetrack Cameroonian investigations because such inquests inevitably turned up links to prominent French politicians and businesses. Dooh Collins alleged that French intelligence agencies had broken into Biya’s office and stolen from his desk the list of “suspects” and then leaked it to the press in order to discredit the investigation.

Dooh Collins said that, for these reasons, the French were not to be informed about the investigation (further info about GRC suspicion of French opposition to the anti-corruption effort at refs a and b). In the subsequent October 10 meeting, Dooh Collins said he was hopeful that the French Government might become more cooperative under the leadership of Sarkozy.
 
Dooh Collins and Cameroonian Politics

Dooh Collins is not shy about his personal ambitions beyond the current investigation. He has shared with us papers that he claims to have presented to Biya laying out his ideas for restructuring a number of sensitive sectors in Cameroon, including the management of petroleum revenues and public debt. On October 10, he claimed that Biya has already ceded tremendous authority to Ali and said it was almost a foregone conclusion that Biya would tap Ali to succeed him in 2011.

Dooh Collins said that a cabinet reshuffle planned for March 2008 would dismiss Prime Minister Inoni and name as his replacement the current Assistant Secretary General at the Presidency (and Anglophone), Philomen Yang. Dooh Collins asserted that “there are many dossiers” on Inoni, including one for Inoni’s involvement in the Albatross affair, but that Inoni was left out of the GRC’s investigation for the time being in order to avoid angering his Anglophone base of support.
 
Dooh Collins’s Next Travel

Dooh Collins has now spoken with diplomatic missions in Yaounde of the US, UK, Canada, Holland, and Italy. Dooh Collins said that he will travel to Geneva, Luxembourg and London sometime after October 15 to meet with officials contributing to the investigation. Dooh Collins expressed an interest in returning to the US to meet with USG officials in Washington and Miami, but said he would put off his trip to await feedback from Washington on the MLA he has submitted.
 
Comment:  Mitigating the Wildcard

Dooh Collins has thus far been a critical element of Ali’s ambitious plan to tap international sources for an anti-corruption investigation.  His claims to be using GRC funds to pay off foreign governments, including the USG, trouble us, but Dooh Collins’ credibility has little bearing on the larger objective of GRC-USG cooperation on anti-corruption.  Leaving aside the personality of Dooh Collins, a serious anti-corruption investigation, involving multiple agencies from multiple governments, will require a more formalized system of exchange.  In the interest of cultivating a more professional, sustainable anti-corruption effort from the GRC, we will seek to convince Ali to establish soon a formalized structure to handle this and similar requests for the GRC, which may also help minimize the wildcard factor of Dooh Collins’ inscrutable role. End comment.
 
Information from Dooh Collins’ Cameroonian National ID Card:
 
Name:  Francis Ebosse Theodore Dooh Collins
Date of Birth:  February 23, 1960
Father: Henri Ned Collins Dooh
Mother Riquette Borgy
Profession: Accounting Expert
Height: 1.77 meters
Weight:  91
Number 106991164
Issued October 29, 2005
 
End information from Dooh Collins’ Cameroonian National ID Card.
 
Information from business cards left by Dooh Collins and Robert Horwath:
 
Petroleum Advising Services (PAS) Ltd.
Francis Dooh Collins
Managing Director-Finance & Project
 
16, chemin des Morettes
1273 arzier/VD – Switzerland
Tel :   41 78 888 88 89 Fax :  41 22 366 00 48
Cell :  41 786 06 83 23 / 333 89 62 84 40
E-mail : petroladvise@hotmail.com
 
(written in hand: 75-82-03-88)
 
Robert Horwath
Managing Director – Shipping
16, chemin des Morettes
1273 arzier/VD – Switzerland
Tel :   41 78 888 88 89
Fax :  41 22 366 00 48
Cell :  41 789 08 98 91
E-mail : goptasltd@hotmail.com
 
End information from business cards left by Dooh Collins and Robert Horwath.
NELSON

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