Police remain tight-lipped over reports of planned mass arrest of politicians

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By Alfred Sasako

POLICE have remained tight-lipped over reports that it is planning the Vanuatu-type mass arrest of politicians over misuse of public funds, commonly known as the Constituency Development Fund (CDF), over the years.

On Wednesday afternoon Island Sun sent the following email to Assistant Commissioner (Crime and Intel), Ian Vaevaso:

“I am working on a story which strongly suggests police are planning a Vanuatu-type mass arrest of MPs on counts of bribery just before parliament winds up on 17 December 2018.

“In preparation for the arrests, police detectives from the CID, are busy collecting field evidence in relation to funding of ghost projects. West Are Are Constituency is number 7th on the cases under investigation.

“Can you please confirm or deny the above?”

There was no response either on Wednesday or yesterday.

Sources told Island Sun this week that detectives from the Criminal Investigation Division (CID) are in some Constituencies now gathering further evidence that could be used against MPs.

It is understood case files of these MPs have returned from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutor (DPP), whose advice determines whether or not a case should be pursued.

The reports said if the planned arrests were to take place, it would be around the second week of December when the National Parliament is dissolved in preparation for the 2019 National General Elections, expected to be held in early March.

Despite police silence, members of the public said the news of the impending arrests of politicians is spreading in constituencies like wildfires, particularly on Malaita.

“There is no doubt it is sending shivers through the corridors of power. In the public there is expectation that finally police will act,” one source told Island Sun yesterday.

Prime Minister Ricky Houenipwela has, in recent months given police the all clear to proceed with any case(s) involving Members of Parliament.

But despite this, police have nabbed just one MP – the Member of Parliament for Baegu-Asifola, Hon David Tome – who has since won his case. The DPP is said to have appealed his case.

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

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

In Solomon Islands, the focus is on the alleged misuse of some $2 billion in grants given to all 50 Constituencies in the form of Constituency Development Fund (CDF) since 2012.

Transparency Solomon Islands (TSI) estimates that 20 percent of the CDF funding comes from Taiwan in the form of annual budgetary support.

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