Netting big fish

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Parliament
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Police closing in for a Vanuatu-type mass arrest of MPs

 

By Alfred Sasako

POLICE are said to be planning a Vanuatu-type mass arrest of members of Parliament on misuse of public funds just before Parliament winds up on December 17 this year.

But unlike Vanuatu where 13 MPs including two former prime ministers were convicted and jailed for bribery, Solomon Islands politicians face the music on alleged misuse of public funds through diversion.

In preparation for the planned arrests in Honiara, police detectives from the Criminal Investigation Division (CID) have been sent to constituencies whose MPs are under the spotlight.

These officers are conducting secret investigations to establish evidence that would be used in court against MPs.

“There are officers in the constituencies now,” informed sources told Island Sun.

It is understood these are cases which the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) has endorsed for police action.

Some cases were brought against MPs by private citizens whose constituency funding has never been shared equally, let alone accounted for in a transparent way.

West Are Are on Malaita is one constituency being named as of particular interest to police. It is said to be case Number 7 on the number of cases before police.

One other case involved the disbursements of the $10 million Cattle Rehabilitation Project, which Taiwan funded in 2008/2009.

A police investigation into more $800,000 funding provided by the Government for some 25 cattle farmers in East Kwaio concluded a year ago, but police may have put the case in abeyance.

The investigation followed complaints by many of the farmers who denied having received any assistance from the funding.

No official confirmation could be obtained last night from police on the planned arrest.

In 2015, Vanuatu’s deputy Prime Minister Moana Carcasses was sentenced to four years in jail for bribery and corruption, joining 13 other MPs — or half of the nation’s government — in prison.

It followed a ruling by Vanuatu Supreme Court on October 9 that he offered money amounting to 35 million Vatu ($452,000) to his fellow MPs when they were in opposition.

Justice Mary Sey ruled that the payments were designed to influence MPs in their capacity as public officials.

Upon sentencing, Justice Sey said those who “occupy a position of trust or authority can expect to be treated severely by the criminal law”.

“Furthermore, where an offence involves a breach of trust, the court regards it as a significant aggravating factor,” she said.

The parliament’s speaker, Marcellino Pipite, who led an unsuccessful attempt to pardon himself and the convicted MPs, was sentenced to three years in prison.

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