YAOUNDE, 20 February 2021 – Judicial authorities in Cameroon have opened a probe into allegations that champagne ordered by the presidential palace is on sale in the black market.
The allegations was first raised in a front-page article published Thursday by the Cameroonian newspaper EcoMatin.
The article said the presidential palace, known as Etoudi Unity Palace, is the source of important quantities of the beverage of bubbles on the shelves of some liquor stores in the capital, Yaounde.
According to reports, the presidential champagne being officer in the black market are from the Moët& Chandon family of champagnes, including Grand Vintage Collection, MoëtRoséImpérialand MoëtNectar Impérialand MoëtImpérial.
Cameroonian journalist and publisher of EcoMatin, Emile Fidieck, said Friday on Twitter that judicial police in Yaounde had called him for questioning over his reporting on what is being called the “Presidential Champagne Scandal”.
Fidieck submitted to an interrogation at the Yaounde Judicial Police Station on Friday, saying later on Twitter that his investigators were “very courteous”..
A source at EcoMatin said the journalist declined to reveal his sources to police, who appeared more concerned about protecting the presidency from a scandal than getting to the bottom of the issue.
Reports say panic has spread among senior officials in charge of logistics at the Etoudi Presidential Palace, which is nestled on Eoutidi Hill, one of the seven hills on which Yaounde is built.
Members of butler service and private hotel of the presidential palace have reportedly been invited by investigators to testify.
Commentators on local radio stations in the economic capital, Douala, suggested Saturday that the champagne in the black market may have been imported by high-ranking officials who, used the label presidential palace in order to avoid paying import duty.
Journalist Fidieck suggested Friday on Twitter that judicial authorities did not like the message in the article and are coming after the messenger.
“The investigations by a credible newspaper end where the work of justice begins,” Fidieck wrote on Twitter, urging officials to deal with the issue, not blame the messenger.
Cameroon spent $14 million (seven billion francs CFA) on an estimated 157,000 bottles of champagne imported in 2018.
Cameroon ranked 51st position worldwide and sixth in champagne consumption in Africa in 2018, the last year for which Africa Freedom Network could obtain official
The top three African consumers of champagne in 2018 were South Africa (top ranked), Nigeria and Cote d’Ivoire.
The Cameroonian presidential palace spent $1.5 million on fine wines and champagne imported from France at the tail-end of 2018 for the sole purpose of providing for guests invited to end of year festivities.
Information on the purchase by the Etoudi Palace leaked on social media platforms showing Yaounde requesting the Cameroon embassy in Paris, France, to facilitate the purchase and export from France to Cameroon of the luxury wines and champagne.
Since 2016, the top world consumers of champagne have been the United Kingdom (26.7 million bottles consumed in 2018), the United States, with just a few thousand bottles less than leaders UK, and Japan in third place with 13.5 million bottles consumed in 2018.