PALAU OFFICIALS AGREE TO REPAY $182,000 TRAVEL COSTS

KOROR, Palau (Palau Horizon/Marianas Variety, Jan. 29) - The Office of the Special Prosecutor has dismissed the civil and criminal cases it filed against House Speaker Mario Gulibert and Del. William Ngiraikelau.

Gulibert signed an agreement with the special prosecutor to settle the case through the restitution of funds. This will "avoid potential criminal and /or civil litigation and to save both himself and the republic the resulting expense and inconvenience," the Office of the Special Prosecutor said.

Earlier, charges of embezzlement, forgery, cheating, grand larceny and misconduct in office have been filed against Gulibert for using public funds for personal use.

The special prosecutor likewise settled claims with 11 other members of the House of Delegates.

Del. Flavian Carlos agreed to pay back the government $23,024; Del. Lucio Ngiraiwet, $18,596.04; Del. Augustine Mesebeluu, $17,974; Del. Steve Umetaro, $13,500; Del. Noah Secharraimul, $12,698.86; Del. Thomas Patris, $12,530.31; Del. Florencio Yamada, $9,769.20; Del. Okada Techitong, $8,846.76; Del. Sabino Anastacio, $6,832.50; and Del. Joel Torbiong, $2,500.

The delegates will repay the government a total of $154,599.

Gulibert agreed to repay the government $14,327.49. Ngiraikelau said he will pay back the $14,000 he incurred in travel expenses.

Special Prosecutor Everett Walton said his office will re-file the cases against the two if they will not comply fully with the terms and conditions of the settlement agreements.

The special prosecutor also filed 11 counts of civil charges against Gulibert to compel him to return the money he spent on junkets dating back to 1998.

Charges of cheating, forgery, misconduct in public office and grand larceny were also filed against Ngiraikelau for obtaining government funds and using them for personal use.

Under the settlement, the delegates agreed not to travel using government funds until the House adopts travel policies or regulations certified by the public auditor.

The lawmakers agreed that, in the future, they will submit receipts or other documentation that will substantiate their travel expenditures along with travel vouchers and written trip reports containing detailed explanation of all expenditures.

Walton said his office will not file any criminal charges or civil complaints against any of the delegates, but will file criminal charges or civil complaints against any of them who fail to comply with the agreements.

Del. Noah Idechong, according to the special prosecutor, has provided evidence to substantiate his expenditures and is not required to pay back the government.

But Idechong also promised that he will not travel using government money until a travel policy is put in place.

The Office of the Special Prosecutor, in a statement said, all claims involve expenses for the legislators’ off-island trips.

"The settlements will save the Republic of Palau many thousands of dollars in necessary travel and litigation expenses that would have incurred if the case went to court," the statement said.

Walton stated, "The settlements are in the best interests of the republic, are reasonable under all the circumstances, and represent a substantial step forward in the quest for transparency and accountability in the government."

January 29, 2003

For additional reports from the Marianas Variety, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/ Marianas Variety. 

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