PALAU SENATOR PLEADS NOT GUILTY TO MONEY LAUNDERING

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President Toribiong’s brother also arraigned

By Bernadette H. Carreon KOROR (Palau Horizon, Jan. 27, 2010) - Senate President Mlib Tmetuchl and President Johnson Toribiong’s brother Lucius Malsol pleaded not guilty to charges of money laundering for attempting to transfer US$22.5 Billion to Palau.

In the arraignment on Friday, Associate Justice Alexandra Foster denied the motion filed by Special Prosecutor Michael Copeland to substitute the Office of the Attorney General as the prosecutor of the case.

On Thursday President Johnson Toribiong ordered the OAG to transfer the prosecution of the US$22 billion money laundering case against Tmetuchl and Malsol to the Office of the Special Prosecutor.

The OAG defied the presidential order and instead filed a counter citing that handing over the case to Copeland is a violation of separation of powers doctrine.

In Foster’s one-page order she ruled, "as stated orally in court, the court is of the belief that it resolved this matter in its order of Jan. 19."

Foster said that the president’s order is "a matter to be resolved in the Executive Branch."

Foster gave the SP or the defendants until Jan. 29 to make additional arguments to disqualify the OAG and the agency gas until Feb. 3 to respond.

In the Jan. 19, motion Foster denied the motion of the defendants to disqualify the OAG from prosecuting the case.

In an 18-page order, Foster ruled that the court finds no reason to disqualify the OAG.

During the arraignment, Malsol’s counsel Kassi Berg said there appears a constitutional crisis thus the arraignment should not proceed until the matter is resolved.

Foster, however maintained that arraignment should continue and that her order stands.

The president said since the OSP is independent from the Office of the President he is appointing the OSP to represent the Republic in the proceedings.

He said that he wants the case removed from the OAG to erase any conflict of interest or impartiality.

Sen. Surangel Whipps Jr. said that the OAG is qualified agency to prosecute the case.

Whipps said with Copeland’s prosecution history, "the president is trying to have the case dismissed."

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