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Kedi allegedly stole $1,198 from government

By Giff Johnson MAJURO, Marshall Islands (Marianas Variety, July 4, 2011) – Marshall Islands Cabinet Minister Kenneth Kedi will be going to trial on 10 criminal counts, following a ruling by Judge James Plasman Friday.

"The government has presented sufficient evidence" for all 10 criminal counts alleged to go to trial, Plasman said.

Kedi through his attorney Witten Philippo pleaded not guilty to all charges that range from grand larceny to misconduct in public office.

During his preliminary hearing last month, Kedi made two key points in his defense, saying he believed he was entitled to the government money he is charged with stealing, and that he paid back to the two sums, $1,197.82 to the national government and $1,037.20 to Air Marshall Islands for Rongelap Atoll Local Government.

Plasman issued a detailed 15-page ruling explaining why he found good cause to proceed to trial. Kedi is the first Cabinet minister to be charged in the High Court in the 32 years of constitution government in the Marshall Islands.

"Defendant’s intent to steal may be inferred from his submission of altered sales receipt to the Nitijela (parliament) as the basis for reimbursement," Plasman wrote on the grand larceny and cheating charges. "The sales receipt issued by Office Mart to Rongelap Atoll Local Government showed it was billed to RALGov. It further showed no outstanding balance. This, however, was not the sales receipt submitted by (Kedi) to the Nitijela for ‘reimbursement.’ He went to Office Mart and requested a new billing be made out to the Nitijela to support his request for reimbursement.

"From these facts, it could reasonably be inferred that (Kedi) knew he would not be reimbursed if he filed the actual sales receipt which showed payment for the furniture by RALGov, and that he intentionally submitted the second receipt to create the false impression that he had paid for the furniture."

Regarding the charge of "private financial gain by public officials," Plasman said the Minister is a public official subject to this law. "He used his position as a senator in the Nitijela to request reimbursement from the Nitijela, based upon an altered sales receipt he requested from the vendor, for expenses he did not incur, to which he was not entitled," Plasman said. By getting the reimbursement from the national government, Kedi received private financial gain for himself totaling $1,197.82, the judge said.

Regarding the Air Marshall Islands check to RALGov that Kedi took and cashed last year, Plasman said "there were sufficient facts from which to infer defendant’s intent to steal the money. Defendant did not purchase the tickets. He was not entitled to the refund. He intentionally requested the refund and cashed the check."

Kedi’s statement of his "good faith belief in his right to the money may be raised at trial as a defense, but does not affect the determination of good cause at preliminary hearing," Plasman said.

A trial date has not yet been scheduled.


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