Vanuatu Daily News Digest | 7 August 2015

Opposition calls on Customs and Police to investigate alleged ministerial fraud attempt

The Office of the Opposition calls upon the Director of the Department of

Customs and the Commissioner of Police to properly investigate the attempt

by MP Telukluk, MP Prasad and Mr Yao to defraud the Government and people of Vanuatu by not declaring their company’s import of a large quantity of cigarettes. The Office of the Opposition also calls upon the Government and in particular the Deputy Prime Minister to refrain and cease from attempting to interfere with the lawful operation of the Department of Customs in dealing with this attempted criminal act. These three individuals must be

treated just like anyone else who breaks the law – there must be a full

investigation and then prosecution and there must be no political

interference in the relevant authorities’ exercise of their lawful duties.

The Office of the Opposition also calls upon the Vanuatu Investment

Promotion Authority (VIPA) to withdraw Mr Yao’s investor status. Mr Yao has friends in high places within the current Government – the last time Sato

Kilman held the post of Prime Minister he appointed Mr Yao to a diplomatic

position and bestowed citizenship upon him. It was subsequently discovered

that Mr Yao did not lawfully qualify for citizenship – it was given in

breach of the law as a political favour – and his citizenship was stripped

off him by the Citizenship Office. Mr Yao has also attempted to defraud the

Government and people of Vanuatu before – he was convicted of an offence

under the VAT Act and had to pay a fine. Now, once again, Mr Yao is found

knowingly and deliberately breaching the laws of this country through this

latest incident. The Office of the Opposition sees no reason for this

undesirable person – who uses his political connections in the current

Government for personal gain and for the enrichment of his MP friends by

defrauding the people of Vanuatu – to continue to maintain his status as an

investor. If VIPA is really serious about fulfilling its legal mandate to

regulate investment and ensure Vanuatu attracts the "right kind" of

investor, there is no conceivable reason why they should not now kick Mr Yao out.

In mature democracies, Mr Telukluk would have resigned by now for being a

partner in a company which has been caught committing such a serious offence – an offence which is punishable upon conviction by a fine of up to

5,000,000 vatu and/or imprisonment for up to 10 years. In mature

democracies, even if Mr Telukluk had not resigned, he would have been sacked as a Minister by now by the Prime Minister.

In his recent Independence Address to the nation, the Prime Minister placed

much emphasis on stability and the need to change the Constitution to allow

a government to serve its full term. Surely, a critical requirement for a

stable government is good governance and adherence to the rule of law. It

would strengthen the Prime Minister’s case for legislating for stable

government if he demonstrated leadership now and took action, at least,

against Minister Telukluk. To follow past practice and do nothing would be

a clear demonstration of the risk Vanuatu runs if it legislates for a stable

government that then allows ministers and members of parliament to breach

Vanuatu laws at will.

The Office of the Opposition will also be making an official complaint to

the Office of the Ombudsman against Messrs Telukluk and Prasad for breaches of the Leadership Code.

18 MPs charged with bribery – seven with Cabinet status – PI in court today

Acting Public Prosecutor John William Timakata is bringing charges under the Penal Code Act against seven ministers in the government brought in to power on 11 June. At that time the Council of Ministers (COM) comprised 13 members, so just over half the members of the Kilman first COM are being charged with a criminal offence which can mean ten years imprisonment.

They start with the Deputy Prime Minister Moana Carcasses Kalosil who is alleged to have bribed or loaned the vast majority of the VT 1 million payments made to individual Members of Parliament, starting in early October last year and continuing well into November, with one offence allegedly taking place in December.

Other ministers facing offering or acceptance of bribery charges are:

Paul Telukluk, Tony Nari, Serge Vohor, Hosea Nevu, Thomas Laken, and Willie Jimmy, together with Steven Kalsakau who was listed as Parliamentary Secretary in the 11 June Cabinet line-up.

Deputy PM Carcasses faces the majority of the charges which generally see him offering and making payments of VT 1 million (in a couple of cases with an extra VT 4 million to follow) to seventeen Members of Parliament. Apart from those names mentioned as members of the Cabinet there are: Silas Yatan, Kalfau Moli, John Amos, Arnold Prasad, Tony Wright, Sebastien Harry, Marcellino Pipite, Jonas James, Jean Yves Chabot and Robert Bohn.

Most of the MPs are being tried under both the Penal Code Act and the Leadership Code Act.

Businessman Thomas Bayer is charged with complicity in bribery and corruption. Bayer, the Director/Chairman of Pacific International Trust Company (PITCO) is charged under the Penal Code Act.

This afternoon sees the Preliminary Inquiry in this matter being put to Senior Magistrate Stephen Felix with lawyers for defendants present. It will then be decided what court procedures must then follow. A Daily Post report covers most of the above this morning.