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KOROR, Palau (Palau Horizon/PINA, Dec. 26) - A second top government official is facing criminal charges following the indictment on Monday of FSM Congress Speaker Jack Fritz for the theft of government funds.

In the latest action, the Office of Palau’s Special Prosecutor has charged Palau House Speaker Mario Gulibert with embezzlement, forgery, grand larceny, and other misdeeds in the alleged misuse of government money.

The Office of Palau's Special Prosecutor alleged Gulibert in 1999 obtained funds from the national government as advance payment for travel expenses, and put the funds to his personal use.

Earlier, the special prosecutor filed 11 counts of civil charges against Gulibert for junkets dating back to 1998.

The complaint relating to 1999 says Gulibert signed a travel authorization falsely stating the real intention of a trip.

Gulibert allegedly went to Honolulu, Hawaii, to attend an investment seminar. As well as travel, he received US$1,200 as per diem expenses. According to Gulibert’s travel voucher, he arrived in Honolulu on June 26 after spending seven days in Los Angeles, California.

But according to the program obtained from Merrill Lynch, the investment seminar was conducted from June 21 to 23.

This means that the seminar ended three days before Gulibert arrived in Honolulu and 10 days before he departed, the complaint said.

Gulibert was ordered to appear in court on January 20 and answer the charges against him.

Gulibert was among the legislators who voted in favor of merging the Office of the Special Prosecutor and the Ethics Commission. This was one of the provisions in the Budget Act of fiscal year 2003 that President Tommy Remengesau opposes.

The Senate approved a measure repealing the provision, but it is still pending in the House of Delegates.

Special Prosecutor Everett Walton, in an interview, said the filing of the charges against Gulibert has nothing to do with the pending bill.

Walton said he has been working on the case for a long time and that it has to be filed whether or not the House passes the measure.

Earlier, the Office of the Special Prosecutor also filed criminal charges against Delegate William Ngiraikelau for cheating, forgery, misconduct in public office and grand larceny.

In June 2001, Ngiraikelau went to San Francisco supposedly to meet with members of the Western Legislative Conference, the complaint said.

He noted in the travel documents he signed that the trip was "in the interest of the House of Delegates." Ngiraikelau obtained US$5,646.60 for this trip.

But according to Walton, he spoke with Cheryl Lee Duvauchelle, deputy director of the Western Legislative Conference. She said they did not convene a conference in June 2001.

She also said that she is unaware of any contact or inquiry from any member of the Palau national legislature to discuss membership in the organization, Walton added.

The Palau Supreme Court’s Trial Division has convicted impeached Ngardmau Governor Albert Ngirmekur on 51 criminal charges filed against him by the Office of the Special Prosecutor.

Ngirmekur was found guilty of 16 counts of misconduct in public office, 14 counts of forgery, nine counts of cheating (false pretenses), seven counts of grand larceny, and five counts of embezzlement.

Ngirmekur will be sentenced on January 17.

The Office of the Special Prosecutor filed criminal charges against Ngirmekur for forging withdrawal slips and state government checks.

December 26, 2002

PINA Nius Online

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