GOV’T COULD LOSE $56M

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Businessman wins lawsuit following Police and Fisheries Ministry cock-up

BY JENNIFER KUSAPA

Government could lose $56 million over a huge cock-up by the RSIPF (police) and Ministry of Fisheries (MFMR).

Medical professional turned businessman, Dr Reginald Aipia of Ontong Java has successfully sued government, police and MFMR.

Mr Aipia launched his case in 2017 following a string of failed attempts by MFMR and police to get him behind bars, apparently with no legal basis.

High Court recently ruled in favour of Aipia, finding the police and MFMR guilty of unlawful arrest, malicious prosecution and false imprisonment of Aipia, and unlawful detention of Aipia’s beche-de-mer.

MFMR and police collaborated in 2013 to arrest Aipia claiming he was fishing beche-de-mer illegally. Court acquitted Aipia in 2017.

Later in 2017, the two collaborators again hauled in Aipia, this time on allegations he was illegally farming beche-de-mer. Court again disproved the two authorities, setting Aipia free.

Following this debacle by MFMR and police, Aipia decided to sue them for injuries and losses. He filed in late 2017 after winning his second case.

Aipia’s lawyer, Wilson Rano, said: “High Court has given verdict in favour of Dr Reginald Aipia against the Commissioner of Police, Police officers, Director of Fisheries and Fisheries officers.

“Police and Fisheries Officers are liable for unlawful arrest of Dr Reginald Aipia of Lord Howe Islands, false imprisonment, unlawful detention of beche-de-mer. The Court also held the Police and Fisheries Officers are also liable for malicious prosecution in the failed criminal prosecution against Aipia in 2017.

“Aipia sued the Police and Fisheries Officers following several failed attempts by the Police and Fisheries Officers to convict him for alleged illegal harvesting of beche-de-mer in 2013 and illegal farming in 2017. Aipia claims that he has been subjected to criminal prosecution by the Police and Ministry of Fisheries without any legal basis.

“The Police and Ministry of Fisheries arrested and charged Aipia in 2013 alleging that he harvested beche-de-mer outside the open season. He was subsequently acquitted by the Magistrates’ Court in 2017. During his arrest more than 1000kg of beche-de-mer were illegally seized by the Police and Fisheries Officers. Despite his acquittal the Police and Fisheries refused to return his beche-de-mer.

Again in 2017, just three months after being acquitted, Police and Fisheries Officers arrested and charged Aipia for allegedly carrying out commercial farming without any permits and possession of illegally harvested beche-de-mer. Again, the Magistrates Court acquitted him.

Because of these continuing criminal prosecutions Aipia decided to sue the officers and Solomon Islands Government for compensation for the loss he suffered and for the injuries that happened to him.

In his Claim, Aipia claimed $56,000,000 for damages for loss of business and for injuries he suffered.

The High Court, in giving verdict in favour Aipia, ruled that the compensation will be assessed by the High Court if the Government and Aipia failed to come to any agreement on the amount of compensation to be paid. Aipia is confident that he will likely reach an agreement with the Government. However, if there is no agreement then he will ask the Cour


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