Aipia and cohort’s case in court today

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BY JENNIFER KUSAPA

DR Reginald Aipia and his American business consultant will again appear in court today.

Dr Aipia is facing charges of engaging in commercial aquaculture without valid licence and prohibition of catches and retains of beche-de-mer, and his co-accused Erik W Hagberg is facing a charge of engaging in a commercial aquaculture without valid licence.

The two already pleaded not guilty to the charges on the previous occasion.

Prosecution alleged that the two have been involving in an illegal beche-der-mer farming at the Ontong Java atolls, Malaita Outer Islands.

This is in relation to the activities done in July and August this year at Luaniua Island.

Prosecution said the two were alleged of breaching the Fisheries Act and regulations and an investigation was carried out by Fisheries and police which resulted in them being charged.

Prosecution alleged the two began constructing beche-de-mer farms in the month of July, 2017 without having a valid licence.

It was alleged that Aipia and his party began harvesting beche-der-mer on July 10, 2017 in the Lord Howe atolls.

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The Luapel House of Chiefs and their MP on July 12, 2017, allegedly made a letter to the Minister of Fisheries & Marine Resources.

The letter contained a report of illegal harvesting and farming of beche-der-mer by Apia and Hagberg.

Apia is the founder and president of the Ontong Java Development Company while Hagberg works as a consultant for the company.

According to the allegation, Hagberg, from the United States of America, worked with Apia in constructing the farms.

He started working during the initial stages of the construction of the farms up till their completion and is said to be responsible for making the beche-der-mer reproduce.

Hagberg was also responsible for managing, advising and setting up the farms.

The duo were arrested and charged after a joint taskforce comprising police and fisheries officers went to Ontong Java on September 10, 2017 and discovered five farms of beche-der-mer.

The five farms are located on the islands of Kepae, Koromai, Keukua, Kelomo and Henuai.

Mr Bitibule Kaehuna of Rano & Company law firm is representing Dr Aipia and Nuatali Tongarutu represents Mr Hagberg.

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