RONGELAP LOBBYIST DENIES ABRAMOFF CONNECTION

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By Gina Tabonares

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Jan. 25) – The lawyer who reportedly facilitated the hiring of Jack Abramoff for Superior Court of Guam representation vehemently denied his association with the controversial lobbyist.

Reacting to a published report that Rongelap Atoll was one of the clients of Abramoff, Atty. Howard Hills said that Abramoff was not part of the representation he made with the Republic of the Marshall Islands atoll.

While he admitted to the Variety that he was used by the Guam judiciary officials to tap the services of Abramoff, Hills said that Abramoff was never involved with his representation with the Rongelap Atoll.

He said that he was hired by Rongelap in 1994 to represent the island in their resettlement affairs and with his legal services the island got an additional US$5 million in 1995 to the US$45 million resettlement trust fund, which was granted by U.S. government in 1996.

Hills said that the last US$5.3 million of the fund was paid in the 2003-2004 fiscal year.

The lawyer reiterated that it is impossible for him to involve Abramoff with his Rongelap representation since they were never associates and he never had any business deals with the lobbyist.

While he admitted that they contracted a different group in their lobbying effort for the atoll resettlement, Hills said that it wasn’t Abramoff’s office.

"No single amount went to Abramoff, there is no document or proof that he was part of the Rongelap representation," Hills stated.

He said that his contracts are performance based as he denied reports that his services did not result to any success.

He said that Rongelap resettlement program is a model of success for a community managing at a scientific, medical, social, cultural and economic level - the legacy of radiological contamination of their persons and their lands.

The Rongelap Atoll is one of the 29 atolls and 5 islands in the central Pacific region that make up the Republic of the Marshall Islands.

It was uninhabited for many years after winds carrying radioactive fallout from the first nuclear bomb test (codename Bravo) drifted over the island.

Hills said that it is not true that Rongelap was neglected as all infrastructure, community facilities and rehabilitation projects have been in place since the approval of the resettlement fund.

Based on the contract signed by RALGOV Mayor James Matayoshi with Hills on September 25, 2003, a flat rate of US$350,000 was paid by the local government for the lawyers’ representation [read related story].

Up to US$85,000 of which shall be reimbursements for costs incurred by Hills for professional services provided to him by subcontractors and consultants during fiscal year 2003.

The 2003 agreement showed that Hills’ deal with RALGOV has been ongoing for years as RALGOV indicated in the contract that it "shall administer and carry out in accordance with the established representational relationships that has been established between RALGOV and Atty. Hills under previous contracts".

Hills did not deny the contract saying that there was nothing wrong with it because he is helping the Rongelap resettlement.

January 25, 2006

Marianas Variety: www.mvariety.com

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