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Four former members of Vanuatu Parliament were sent back to prison on Monday.
They are Sebastien Harry, Paul Telukluk, Jean-Yves Chabod and Arnold Prasad.
The Supreme Court found them guilty of trying to pervert the course of justice, in the events that led up to them being pardoned after they were convicted in the bribery case.
Justice Andree Wiltens hardly relied on their evidences adduced in court, that they where unaware of what was happening at the Ministry of Infrastructure and Public Utilities (MIPU) at the time.
While handing down the judgement he said that all four defendants denied being part of the conspiracy.
He said the original signed ‘request for pardon’ letters is evidence and despite every effort they cannot be located until today. The prosecution has produced a draft letter of request in Prasad’s name and others involved in this trial.
The Supreme Court judge said the uncontroverted evidence is that lawyer Erick Molbaleh prepared an identically worded letter for each of those convicted by Justice Mary Sey.
He said despite strenuous efforts to locate the original or drafts of letters in the names of others tends, if anything shows the subterfuge in the whole escapade employed by former Speaker of the Parliament Marcelino Pipite and MIPU Minister Tony Nari with the help of some lawyers and does not diminish the prosecution’s allegations.
He said lawyer Gregory Takau admitted in court that he saw Chabod, Iauko and Prasad signing their request of pardon letters.
Telukluk gave evidence of being at MIPU but did not have the time to wait for a letter of request for pardon to be prepared and went home instead.
He said he went to MIPU to get a copy of Justice Sey’s decision, and didn’t get one because his lawyer had already left, thus his account for his presence at MIPU has no credibility.
“I accept it proved that he too signed a letter of request pardon,” said Justice Wiltens.
“Prasad also says he did not sign any letter of request.
“I do not accept that.
“He went to MIPU and waited around for such a letter to be prepared for him and to have left before it was completed for him to sign runs against the other evidence.
“And of course, the draft document indicates it was prepared – the possibility of Prasad announcing he was leaving without being able to wait and then the draft document being completed anyway is inherently unlikely”.
Justice Wiltens said that by signing the request for the Presidential Pardon, each defendant has demonstrably joined the conspiracy.
He said the act illustrates not just an intention to obtain a pardon for themselves signed by Pipite in the dire conflicted position in which he found himself but it demonstrates each defendant’s tendency to pervert the course of justice.
He said each knew the letter of request would likely to be favourably considered by Pipite and he had already made that plan to them all.
He said that he is satisfied that each defendant knew on (that) Saturday that they have been pardoned.
The judge said those who went along to the Press Conference were not surprised either by the general subject-matter nor by their names also being read out as having been pardoned.
He said that the former MPs were claiming that the reasons to grant pardon are significant and set out in the instrument of pardon as ‘..to maintain the stability in the government..’ and the press release suggested that ‘..a great likelihood of civil unrest and riots..’ and also refer to the ‘..great need for political stability and governance...’
Justice Wiltens said the pardons were given out of pure self-interest and they were completely unwarranted given the conduct condoned by their issuance.
He said the late President Baldwin Lonsdale demonstrated that on his return to Vanuatu by promptly revoking the pardons.
He said that if the pardons were legitimate and remained in place, they would have had the effect, as intended, of prematurely ending the bribery and corruption trial without sentencing having occurred.
The Supreme Court judge added that the prosecution has proved the case beyond reasonable doubt that there were agreements between at least two or more persons to do an act which constituted a criminal offence, namely preventing and defeating the course of justice.
“The prosecution has further proved beyond reasonable doubt that each of these four was a knowing party to that agreement, who intended, and whose acts tended, to prevent and pervert the course of justice,” he said.
“It follows that each of the defendants Chabod, Telukluk, Harry and Prasad is found guilty and is convicted as charged”.
Justice Wiltens issued a remand order to have them behind bars, awaiting their sentences in October 2018.
Meanwhile the six MPs’ colleagues that were already sentenced on the same judge are now awaiting their appeal in November this year.
Marcellino Pipite, Silas Yatan, John Amos, Tony Nari, Jonas James, and Thomas Laken were sentenced to three years and 10 months each after pleaded guilty to the charge of conspiring to defeat the course of justice.
SOURCE: VANUATU DAILY POST/PACNEWS
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