Cameroon education minister arrested for suspected embezzlement

YAOUNDE Mon Mar 31, 2014 4:13pm EDT

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YAOUNDE (Reuters) - Cameroon's secondary education minister Louis Bapes Bapes was arrested and remanded in custody on suspected embezzlement of public funds, a court official and state radio in the central African nation said on Monday.

Bapes Bapes is the first sitting minister to be arrested under President Paul Biya, 81, one of Africa's longest serving heads of state. Biya, who came to power in 1982, launched "Operation Sparrow Hawk" in 2006 to combat corruption.

The drive has seen several of his former aides, ministers and top government officials brought to court. Critics say the campaign has been used to target opponents.

Bapes Bapes, who as education minister managed one of the largest ministerial budgets in the country, was taken to the Special Criminal Tribunal in the capital on Monday.

"The judge notified him of his immediate remanding in custody at the Yaounde central prison for suspected embezzlement of public funds," a court official told Reuters.

Cameroon state radio CRTV, quoting a statement from the court, reported the arrest but did not indicate how much the minister was accused of embezzling.

Biya created the Special Criminal Tribunal in 2012 to try officials suspected of embezzling sums equal or above 50 million CFA francs ($105,100)

(Reporting by Anne Mireille Nzouankeu and Tansa Musa; Writing by Bate Felix; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg and Tom Heneghan)

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