2 Vanuatu Ministers Implicated In Vila Harbor Yacht Raid

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Drugs, forged documents discovered by police in second operation

By Thompson Marango and Royson Willie

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, July 31, 2012) – Another Vanuatu police raid yesterday morning on the mega yacht Phocea, stumbled upon a substance in plastic bag that may be opium, which is frequently processed chemically to produce heroin for the illegal drug trade.

But Daily Post sources said at this stage the confiscated item will have to be tested if it is really opium.

The raid was undertaken yesterday through the leadership of the Transnational Crime Unit and police Maritime Wing.

After the police searched the yacht, Daily Post was reliably informed that the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Alfred Carlot who was returning from an overseas visit would be searched by the police upon his arrival at Bauerfield Airport yesterday.

But the minister was reportedly not on the first flights yesterday early afternoon.

Daily Post has also been told that the Minister of Education, Marcellino Pipite, who was returning from overseas was also expected to receive the same treatment in relation to recent police investigations.

Yesterday’s last international flight came in around 11pm after Daily Post went to press.

Mr. Carlot and Mr. Pipite were two of the government ministers who allegedly went on board the Phocea, "owned" by Anh Quan Saken, Vanuatu’s nominated Honorary Consul to Vietnam.

[PIR editor's note: Vanuatu Internal Affairs minister George Wells has effected the suspension of the transnational crime unit's head, Andrew Kalman, while an "information blackout" on the police investigation at Port Vila is apparently in full swing. Opposition members of Vanuatu's government have alleged that a major cover-up is being undertaken.]

Meanwhile, the former Commissioner of the now-defunct Vanuatu Maritime Authority (VMA), Mr. Less Napuati, told Daily Post yesterday that he ceased to represent VMA when the VMA Act was repealed by parliament about four years ago.

He said the signature of the former VMA Commissioner that was reported by Daily Post yesterday were his but the signatures were forged because he has seen a copy of such document.

Mr. Napuati said he was shown a copy of the documents held by the yacht, which had his signature on it and he told police that his signature was forged.

"Every documentation that they (those on the yacht) said I signed are false documents as I never signed any such documents.

"I have already submitted a police statement to confirm that my signature was forged and the documents were forged documents," Mr. Napuati told Daily Post yesterday.

On another case that is also linked to the whole investigation behind the mega yacht, Chairman of the Citizenship Commission, Joe Aranambath, has pleaded not guilty to charges of ‘obtaining citizenship by false and misleading statements’ and ‘complicity of obtaining citizenship by false and misleading statements’.

Three others who also appeared before Senior Magistrate, Rita Naviti this week were also charged with the same charge(s).

Hiva Matiujaje and Michel Gangatadlakepa, the Tongan and Samoan national who were also charged with obtaining citizenship by false and misleading statements have also pleaded not guilty.

Only one of the defendants, Solomon Mangau pleads guilty to the two charges of ‘obtaining citizenship by false and misleading statements’ and ‘complicity of obtaining citizenship by false and misleading statements’.

According to Public Prosecutor, Tristan Garae, the defendant who pleaded guilty will have to wait for the trials of those who pleaded not guilty. According to the Prosecutor, the defendant who pleaded guilty will only be convicted if the there is conviction in the trials of the other three defendants.

The Citizenship Commission Chairman and the other two defendants are expected to reappear before the Magistrate for trail on August 29 and 30 and September 5 and 6.

In court Thursday this week the Prosecution side has also made an application to the court seeking the court to hold the Tongan and Samoan in remand but the application was rejected by the court as there were not enough evidence to prove that they may be interrupting further Police investigations.

The prosecution has also tried to support its application with claims that the duo who arrived in the mega yacht Phocea that was suspected of being involved in smuggling high powered arms, money laundering and breaching related maritime boarder laws have breached court order.

The court was informed by the prosecution that the duo may also be a threat to their landlord whom are said to feel insecure in their property. There were also claims that the two defendants have also been assisting the mega yacht’s skipper disembarking crew members which is a breach of court order.

But the magistrate was not convinced by the Prosecution since there were no official charges being laid against the yacht’s skipper.

The defense council convinced the Magistrate that there is not enough evidence to hold the duo on remand. Therefore the duo whom one has been remanded but released on bail earlier for attempting to board a plane to New Zealand, are now on bail awaiting trial.

At this stage Daily Post could not get any confirmation if those involved in the arrests had any connections to the triads.

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