VANUATU OMBUDSMAN SEEKS PROSECUTION OF MINISTER IAUKO

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Hopes police will act on violations of Leadership Code

By Royson Willie PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, Feb. 5, 2012) – The Ombudsman’s Office has confirmed that they have received a positive feedback from the Public Prosecutor’s Office who recommended the prosecution of Jay Ngwele and current Minister of Public Utilities, Harry Iauko, for breaches of the Leadership Code Act.

But they have until Thursday next week to complete this process, which leaves a short time for police to complete their investigation, which they suspended to seek legal advice.

This was revealed in a presentation made by the Ombudsman’s Office at the National Law and Justice Sector Summit that was held recently in Mele, Efate.

Speaking to Daily Post Thursday this week, an officer in the Ombudsman’s office said since the public report on the ‘Impeachment Of The Leadership Code Act by Hon. Harry Iauko and Mr. Jay Ngwele’, the Public Prosecutor has since written to the police, of which a copy was received by the Ombudsman’s office, that there was overwhelming evidence against these two leaders.

In its presentation at the Justice Summit, the Ombudsman’s office said it has been producing reports from 1998 to October 2010 which were never accepted by the Public Prosecutors.

Then the Ombudsman’s office said in 2010, the Ombudsman issued a public report entitled Public Report on the breach of the Leadership Code Act by Hon. Malon Hopsmander and Mr. Andre Lesines.

That was the first time when the Public Prosecutor complied with section 37(2)(3) of the Leadership Code Act but the decision not to prosecute was, inter alia (among other things), based on the possibility of double jeopardy (the legal requirement that a person cannot be tried twice for the same offence that they have been acquitted of).

But after the Ombudsman’s office issued its report in October 2011, on the impeachment of Iauko and Ngwele through their convictions at the Magistrate Court, the Public Prosecutor was reported to have concurred that there was "overwhelming evidence against Honorable Harry Iauko and Mr. Jay Ngwele for impeachment of section 27 of the Leadership Code Act [CAP240], breach of their obligations as leaders under section 2 of the same Code and failure to appear in obedience to summons without sufficient excuse contrary to section 49 of the Ombudsman Act [CAP252]."

The Prosecutor’s office then recommended the prosecution of Iauko and Ngwele and requested that the police caution them and have all necessary documents provided to the Prosecutor’s Office in good time so criminal proceedings can be commenced in the earliest.

Under the Leadership Code Act, this "good time" limit is three months, which is expected to expire Thursday next week.

This case was then placed under the Uniform Investigation Branch of the police under Senior Inspector George Songi to fulfill the recommendations of the Public Prosecutor.

Daily Post called the police station to speak with Inspector Songi but he was not in his office, but the officer in the Ombudsman’s office told Daily Post on Thursday that police have decided to seek legal advice through the Public Prosecutor and the Police legal counsel for fear of acting in "ultra vires" (that is acting outside of their powers under the law).

The case involving these two leaders stems from an original assault case early last year in the Daily Post office.

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