Convicted Cook Islands Former MP Faces New Corruption Charges

Bishop allegedly sold agricultural equipment meant for public use

By Rashneel Kumar 

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, Oct. 12, 2016) – Former parliamentarian Teina Bishop is in hot water – again.

This time, he is being investigated by the Office of the Public Expenditure Review Committee and Audit (PERCA) for allegedly selling agricultural machinery that was meant for public use.

CI News understands Bishop, the former Member of the Parliament for Arutanga/Reureu Nikaupara, sold a tractor, rotary hoes and light machinery to a local in Aitutaki.

The $1.5 million [US$1 million] worth of agriculture equipment from the Chinese Government, which was on display at the Te Atukura grounds (next to Prime Minister’s Office) last year, was given to each constituency to help with the growth of local agricultural production.

While confirming the latest enquiry on Bishop, Mere Waqanicagica, the audit manager at the Cook Islands Audit Office, said they were still in the preliminary stage of the investigation.

She said there was no deadline set.

“As the complaint has just been recently received, PERCA is still at the preliminary stage of the audit,” Waqanicagica said.

“At this point, the audit is planned to be completed by the end of next month. However, this will depend on the availability of relevant records from relevant agencies.”

Waqanicagica said for such matters, penalties were usually set out in the Crimes Act and relevant financial legislation and regulations of the Cook Islands government.

“However, the facts of the transactions first have to be established before it can be determined whether penalties are to be imposed and what penalties are to be imposed,” she added.

Bishop was earlier under investigation for corruption-related charges during his time as the country’s Minister of Marine Resources. The charges involved a loan obtained by him from a subsidiary of a foreign fishing company and the subsequent granting of fishing licences.

After three years of investigation by the Cook Islands Police and the New Zealand Serious Fraud Office and a trial that lasted almost two weeks, Bishop was found guilty and sentenced to 28 months imprisonment by Judge Justice Colin Doherty in August this year.

However, he was granted bail because of “unusual circumstances,” after his counsel, Rodney Harrison applied for an appeal on both his conviction and sentencing.

The CI News tried on four occasions to contact Bishop for a comment, but was unable to reach him. 

Cook Islands News
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