VANUATU LAWMAKERS CHARGED WITH FRAUD

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WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, Oct. 23) – Three Vanuatu Members of Parliament are to appear in court next month facing charges in connection to the country’s biggest fraud investigation.

Members of Parliament Dunstan Hilton, Malon Hosmander and Noel Tamata and the former first political secretary in the ministry of Foreign Affairs, Andre Lesines, are facing charges of forgery and theft.

All four are members of the People’s Progressive Party of the former deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Sato Kilman.

When reports of People’s Progressive Party’s alleged involvement in the fraud case emerged in July, the party was ejected from the coalition government.

The four are due to enter their pleas in court on November 6.

Meanwhile, the Indo-Fijian fugitive believed to have masterminded the fraud of about US$300,000—reportedly the biggest ever fraud case in Vanuatu—remains in Fiji where he is reported to be facing criminal charges.

Vanuatu police say they are yet to receive a response from Fiji to an extradition request for Salendra Sen Sinha.

A related Radio New Zealand International story reports that Vanuatu police have expressed frustration at the lengthy delay in response from their Fiji counterparts to the request for extradition of the fugitive facing fraud charges.

Vanuatu police lodged a mutual assistance request with Fiji about three months ago regarding Salendra Sen Sinha.

But Vanuatu Deputy Police Commissioner Lieutenant Colonel Arthur Caulton says they expected Fiji authorities to respond much earlier in such an important case.

"I don’t know the strength of the magistrates and the judicial system at the moment but I’m sure it (the delay) has to do with the current situation in Fiji. As soon as that is cleared, I don’t know when, but we would like Salendra back in Vanuatu as soon as possible," said Lieutenant Colonel Caulton.

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