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Cameroon: Heirs of rich businessman Victor Fotso hit the courts

By Jeune Afrique
Posted on Thursday, 6 May 2021 21:07, updated on Friday, 7 May 2021 15:11

Victor Fotso © Victor Zebaze

The legal dispute over the ownership of rich businessman Victor Fotso’s estate, which involves 146 heirs (25 wives and 121 children), has gone to court in Cameroon and France.

After the death of 94-year-old magnate Victor on 20 March 2020 at the American Hospital of Paris in Neuilly-sur-Seine, three camps were formed within his family.

One of the children, Yves-Michel Fotso, is on the offensive. The former boss of Fotso Group, who was sentenced to life imprisonment but evacuated to Morocco for health reasons, has obtained a mandate from 99 beneficiaries. He is asking the courts in Douala and Yaoundé to register judicial mortgages on all of property of the deceased bought by former international footballer Jérémie Njitap.

Real estate

The former captain of the national football team, Lions Indomptables, is the husband of Laure Njitap Toukam Fotso. He became the group’s administrator in 2011 after Yves-Michel – who had been entrusted with the estate following their father’s death – was imprisoned.

I am not in a position to express myself on business dealings which, whoever the protagonists may be and even if they are old, have a right to secrecy,” said Jérémie Njitap.

Yves-Michel and his supporters are pursuing legal action against his sister’s camp, in the hopes of shedding light into how the former football player and his relatives managed to acquire several of Victor’s properties in Douala and Yaounde through the property company SCI GHF.

This includes the Abbia building and the one adjacent to it, within the heart of downtown Yaoundé, which were acquired in February and June 2012. Two other buildings, which were acquired in 2013, are on the list: one which houses the Wouri cinema in Douala and another known as ‘former Monoprix’ in Akwa. Several plots of land in the economic capital are also the subject of these legal proceedings.

€30m went where?

Yves-Michel has also taken the case to the French courts to, among other things, establish what happened to the €30m ($36.2m) from the sale of another building in 2019. Located at Porte de la Chapelle in Paris, this building was previously owned by SCI FOV Paris, a property company partially owned by Victor.

The plaintiffs have expressed doubt as to whether he sold, of his own free will, what he considered to be his most valuable asset, only a few weeks before his death.

Investigators have received a possible lead. In the 19 days leading to his death, when he was about to be evacuated to France for further treatment, Victor may have decided to ‘disinherit’ his wives and children. He is said to have signed a document to transfer the balance of his shares in SCI FOV Paris to an endowment fund that had been created a few months earlier.

This means that his heirs would not only have been prevented from accessing the FOV Paris accounts after his death, but also the money acquired from selling the building. The funds would now be the property of the endowment fund, whose aim is to finance socio-cultural and sports associations as well as charitable activities.

The undecided camp

Laure Toukam denies any wrongdoing. Her husband, Njitap, says: “I am not in a position to express myself on business dealings which, whoever the protagonists may be and even if they are old, have a right to secrecy.”

In the legal battle that is only just beginning, Yves-Michel is fighting to gain support of all the heirs. He also wants backing from a third camp – the undecideds – led by Christelle Nadia Fotso, a lawyer based in the US.

She is not very interested in questions related to the inheritance, but rather, what she feels to be the “dubious” circumstances surrounding the death of a magnate with 146 heirs.

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