POLICE TO INVESTIGATE ALLEGATIONS AGAINST VANUATU LEADERS

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PORT VILA, Vanuatu (February 1, 1998 - PACNEWS)---Vanuatu police will investigate allegations of serious misconduct by Vanuatu politicians named in the Ombudsman's controversial Vanuatu National Provident Fund housing loan project report.

Police inspector Pakoa Samuel says a list of 20 names currently is being reviewed.

The Ombudsman's investigation of the loan scheme found alleged gross misuse of the retirement fund by high ranking government officials and their political supporters. The report led members of the VNFP to demand reimbursement of their deposits, which subsequently resulted in rioting and looting January 12.

Meanwhile, Commissioner of Police Peter Bong has warned members of his force that they will face legal penalties if they mistreat people they arrest. The warning comes following Bong's visit with two men at the Port Vila Central Hospital who were hospitalized with alleged police-dealt injuries. One sustained a broken jaw and the other had to undergo emergency surgery for a ruptured spleen after he was reportedly kicked by police officers.

Bong says he has ordered an internal investigation into the police brutality allegations, adding that those found guilty will be dealt with to the full extent of the law.

In a letter to Bong, the human rights organization, Amnesty International, has expressed interest in how the investigation is being conducted.

Some 500 people now have been arrested in connection with the retirement fund disturbances.

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