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HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, Mar. 7) – Seven high-profile inmates of Rove central prison in the Solomon Islands have been charged in the disappearance of $5 million (US$679,000) in government funds intended as compensation for the people of Malaita.

In a special hearing of the Honiara Magistrates Court held inside Rove Prison on Friday, Alex Bartlett, Malcolm Lake, Jimmy Lusibaea, Roland Timo, Simon Mannie, Alfred Faaramoa and Manaseh Maelanga were all charged with demanding money with menace and receiving the proceeds of a crime.

Earlier last week four other men were arrested and charged with similar offences; they were Honiara lawyers Andrew Nori and Leslie Kwaiga, RSIP Inspector Leslie Ofu and Honiara businessman Jeremy Rua.

The 11 are all members of the so-called former Malaita Eagle Force Supreme Council.

Assistant Commissioner for Crime and Prosecutions, Johnson Siapu, on Friday thanked the public for the assistance offered to investigators in this case.

"I hope that anyone who has any further information will come forward and contact the Corruption Targeting Team at the police headquarters at Rove," Assistant Commissioner Siapu said.

He said the charging of the seven high-profile inmates at Rove last Friday concludes that 18 months investigation carried out into this case.

At a Magistrates Court hearing inside Rove jail on Friday, Bartlett was charged with three counts of demanding $5 million with menace. He was also charged with one count receiving $5 million known to have been obtained in a way that amounted to a felony.

Malcolm Lake, Jimmy Lusibaea, Roland Timo and Simon Mannie are also facing three counts of demanding money with menace and one count of receiving $5 million.

Maelanga is facing one count of demanding money with menace and one count of receiving $5 million.

Alfred Faaramoa has been charged with one count of demanding money with menace and one count of receiving $166,000.

The allegations centre on a payment in July 2000 from the National Government to the Province of Malaita, intended as compensation for the grievances arising from the tensions.

The National Government had agreed to pay a total of $6.8 million in compensation; most of the money was to go to the general public of Malaita with smaller amounts to be paid to the families of those killed in the tensions and the Malaitan chiefs.

Police alleged that as a result of demands made with menace $5 million of this money did not reach the people of Malaita, and the funds have never been recovered.

All those accused are due to appear again in the Magistrates Court on March 24.

March 7, 2005

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