Palau Minister Of Justice Sues Top Officials In Ministry

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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

AG, Special Prosecutor, Public Safety director allegedly misuse grant

By L. N. Reklai

KOROR, Palau (Island Times, April 26, 2016) – Vice President of the Republic and Minister of Justice Antonio Bells sued the heads of top three officers under his Ministry (MOJ) and a law enforcement officers’ non-profit organization.

Lawsuit stems from US grant fund that was deposited into a non-government account and expended and the resulting actions that led to suspension of BPS Director Aquon by VP Bells, lawsuits from former ISP Simms against VP, and later dropping of lawsuits from Simms.

Named in the suit are Attorney General John Bradley, former Interim Special Prosecutor Melissa Simms, Director of Public Safety Ishmael Aguon and officers of the Palau Enforcers Athletic Club.

Vice President Bells claimed in the suit that a fund from Special Operation Command Pacific, HQSOCPAC in Honolulu, Hawaii, granted for joint training exercise code named Exercise Tempest Wind was deposited into a non-government account and expended illegally and that the defendants named above, "conspired to prosecute, injure and cause damages to plaintiff" (Bells).

The suit alleges that a grant proposal submitted by Acting Director Allonz with approval of Minister and Vice President Bells to purchase goods and services for Exercise Tempest Wind, was diverted by Director of Bureau of Public Safety Aguon, without the knowledge of Vice President Bells, to be deposited into a private account of a non-profit organization called Palau Enforcers Athletic Club and was expended in violation of Palau’s procurement and public funds expenditure laws.

The suit further claims that when Vice President sought AG Bradley’s legal advice over Director Aguon’s refusal to submit records of expenditures, AG Bradley, citing potential conflict of interest, advised him to do his own internal investigation as part of his oversight duties over BPS as minister and referred the matter to ISP Simms and Office of Public Auditor.

The suit further alleges that Attorney General Bradley and BPS Director Aguon "conspired with and instigated …Simms to file criminal charges" against Vice President Bells "knowing they have no merit or basis in law".

VP further claims that Attorney General Bradley directed ISP Simms to file criminal charges against him in retaliation for putting him on an AWOL, for correcting him on legal and policy matters and to avenge the suspension of Aguon.

The lengthy suit cites various times and occasions where allegedly Simms took numerous legal actions against him both personally and in his official capacity without any legal basis or merit.

The suit states that due to actions taken by former ISP Simms and Attorney General Bradley against him, his "life nearly came to a stop" and "his family, relatives, clan and supporters were personally disturbed, humiliated and traumatized."

The suit seeks to declare the funds for Exercise Tempest Wind as public funds and to declare the actions taken by Director Aguon and Palau Enforcers Athletic Club unlawful and in violation of Constitution and laws of the Republic of Palau.

It also seeks to declare former ISP Melissa Simms in violation of misconduct in public office, violation of attorney’s code of ethics and the Code of Ethics law.

It also seeks to declare actions of defendants Simms and Bradley toward Vice President Bells as "vicious and wrongful" and that each defendant is liable to damages in the amount of not less than $500,000.

"Plaintiff after he was denied representation by the Attorney General as the top government lawyer and after being criminally charged by defendant Simms, now has no choice but is compelled to file this case by himself in order to protect public funds…," stated the law suit.

Attorney General John Bradley is off-island in his home State of Texas this week attending his daughter’s wedding. Former Interim Special Prosecutor Melissa Simms left island on the date the suit was filed. According to her resignation letter sent to Attorney General Bradley on April 6, her sixty day notice was to expire on June 19, 2016.

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