Former Emperor Denies Validity of Receipt
BANGUI, Central African Republic (AP) _ Former Emperor Bokassa I told a court Friday he had no knowledge of millions of dollars in treasury funds he is accused of stealing because ″I was an emperor, not an accountant.″
″I can not be expected to remember all the details,″ he said.
The Criminal Court has been trying Jean-Bedel Bokassa, the self-styled emperor who was overthrown in September 1979, for more than three months on 14 charges that include mass murder, cannibalism, treason and stealing state funds.
His trial had been scheduled to end next week, but defense attorneys said Friday they now expect a verdict sometime in May.
Prosecutor Gabriel-Faustin Mbodou said Bokassa signed receipts for much of the money he drew for personal use, but later had nearly all the receipts destroyed.
″The investigators found only a single receipt in the archives,″ Mbodou said, brandishing a photocopy of the document Bokassa signed in 1978.
″In it, Bokassa acknowledges receiving 30 million African francs,″ the equivalent of about $100,000, the prosecutor said. ″The court wants to know what he did with that particular sum among many others for which the receipts have disappeared.″
Bokassa carefully examined the photocopy, then told the court it was not genuine ″because I always signed every receipt twice, as a precaution against fraud. This receipt has only one signature.″
Prosecutors allege that Bokassa stole at least 50 billion African francs ($155 million) during his 14-year dictatorship.
Former Treasurer Firmin Bemolinda told the court there was no record of much of the money Bokassa took because often he did not sign receipts.
″A chief of state does not need to sign receipts concerning special funds put at his disposal,″ Bemolinda testified.
The former ruler returned from exile in France voluntarily in October and is being tried again on the same charges for which he was sentenced to death in his absence in 1980.
Bokassa admitted selling to the government for 60 million African francs ($200,000) a DC-4 transport plane President Charles de Gaulle of France presented to him as a personal gift.
According to the prosecution, he later took the plane for his personal use and charged the treasury a rental fee every time he flew in it.
He said in court: ″The state owed me a lot of money. I was entitled to get some of it back as best I could.″