Vanuatu Minister’s Fraud Case Hampered In Court

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Vanuatu Minister’s Fraud Case Hampered In Court Minister fails to appear in court, documents missing

By Bob Makin

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, Sept. 10, 2012) – A dozen persons interested in the fraud case against Vanuatu’s Lands Minister and his brother waited in the Supreme Court for over half an hour today for Prosecutions to appear and finally Mr. Yoan Kalsakau arrived, but without his brother, Minister Steven Kalsakau. Before Justice Fatiaki, the one prosecutor present dealt with a minor case for which only the accused and his lawyer were present.

The prosecutor then asked to be excused as she was not responsible for dealing with the fraud matter.

[PIR editor’s note: Steven Kalsakau has been implicated in a number of offenses recently, including having allegedly sold a large area of land to the national bank in order to "cover a private debt," after which landowners demanded a judicial inquiry in April. He and his brother Yoan were investigated for complaints of fraud over $263,000, which allegedly involved the purchase of a barge that never arrived and a refund that was never paid.]

"Certainly not," replied Justice Fatiaki. "Getting counsel from the Public Prosecutions Office (PPO) for two weeks has been a difficulty. If I let you go now, who will be here?"

There was no answer. "This is intolerable," said Justice Fatiaki, a feeling shared by all in the court room, and he made that prosecutor remain.

That particular prosecutor had earlier told those awaiting the fraud case that an arrangement must have been made between the defendants' lawyer in the fraud case and a prosecutor.

"This is not your case," she said to those who understand themselves to be victims in the fraud matter. "It is our case," referring to the minor vandalism charge which began Supreme Court business. Asked where the file on the fraud case happened to be, Prosecutor Harrison did not know and did not have the file. The prosecutor who should handle the matter was not in his office.

Justice Fatiaki: "What is he doing? Running training courses for Customs officers and not appearing in court? I assume therefore that you are not aware of the information which had to be filed by 29 August for today's arraignment?"

Prosecutor Harrison was not aware.

Justice Fatiaki: "This is a matter for arraignment today. What is supposed to happen? We take pleas. What do they plead to? They are supposed to plead to an information file provided by the PPO."

Counsel Napuati for the accused also did not have the file in the matter which should have been ready since 1 August.

He complained that there were two charges when there should have been only one. He also was able to produce only one of the accused, Mr. Yoan Kalsakau, Mr. Steven Kalsakau being unwell. However, there was no doctor's certificate.

Justice Fatiaki was critical of Mr. Napuati, who felt he could plead for Mr. Steven Kalsakau.

When a more senior officer of the PPO turned up at 3:15pm (over an hour late) it was learned that the PPO had not filed the amendment to the charge sheet.

Justice Fatiaki: "The PPO is completely and utterly incompetent."

Indeed more information concerning the case was supplied by an interested party just present for the hearing and arraignment because he feels he was sorely used by the defendants.

Justice Fatiaki adjourned the case until 2pm today at the Supreme Court and if Prosecutions have not amended the charges the matter will have to be dismissed for want of a prosecution, he said.

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