Solomon Islands Health Ministry Scandal Case Adjourned Until Mid April

Prosecution needs to time prepare full disclosures against five accused of stealing $1.26 million

By Assumpta Buchanan

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, ) – Prosecution is yet to provide full disclosures on the case of the five people charged in connection to the $10 million [US$1.26 million] scandal within the Ministry of Health and Medical Services.

Only partial disclosures were served to the defence counsels on Wednesday.

Acting Deputy Chief Magistrate Shepherd Lapo adjourned the matter to April 19, to allow more time for prosecution to complete the disclosures.

Some of the defence counsels have raised their concerns over the delay of the disclosures with one stating he will make an application if disclosures are not made by the next occasion.

John Taupongi of Michael Pitakaka Law Chambers, who represents one of the accused, Randy Hatigeva, said the case has been hanging over the accuseds’ heads since last year.

Mr Lapo having heard from both the prosecution and the defence counsels directed prosecution to complete the disclosures by the next mention date.

He said in the event that was not done, prosecution is expected to provide explanation as to why that was not done.

Mr Lapo also gave time to another accused, Dalcy Maena, to find herself a lawyer and inform the court on the next appearance as to whether or not she had found a lawyer.

Maena told the court yesterday that she had checked with the Public Solicitor’s Office since January but they are yet to allocate her a lawyer.

The four former officers from the Ministry of Ministry of Health and a local contractor were charged in connection to the missing $10 million.

Finance Controller Stephen Dalipanda, former senior accountant Hatigeva, former procurement officer Robert Manu, former accounts officer Maena and local contractor Tigi Sikele are on bail.

Dalipanda of Choiseul is facing 15 counts of false pretence for allegedly approving some payments totalling up to $7.3 million [US$919,000]. 

His co-accused Manu of Tikopia faces 12 counts of false pretence and four counts of official corruption. 

This is for allegedly processed some payments under two non-genuine shipping companies totally up to 7.3 million. 

Hatigeva is facing 10 counts of false pretences for allegedly endorsing payments and other documents totalling up $7.3 million.

Maena of Malaita faces 18 counts of false pretence for allegedly processing fictitious quotes, invoices and claims for non-executed services or duplicated payments from fake shipping including a private company that she set up totalling up to SBD $7,542,763.40.

Sikele from Malaita, who is a local contractor, is facing two counts of false pretences for allegedly defrauding the Ministry of Health of more than $730,000.

Prosecution alleged the accused and other public servants from the Ministry of Health and Medical Services colluded with fake shipping agents to defraud the Solomon Islands Government for approximately $7.3 million. 

The two shipping agents are John Biliki and Wesley Poloso of Eroba Shipping Service and Joke Shipping Service to defraud the Solomon Islands Government for approximately $7.3 million.

One of the alleged fake shipping agents, taxi driver, Poloso, was already convicted and jailed for two and a half years in 2014 for receiving $1.5 million [US$189,000] of the fund.

He was referred to as a “toy-boy.”

Owner of the other alleged fake shipping agent, Biliki’s case will be mentioned in the High Court on March 27.

These millions of dollars were aid donor funding and Solomon Islands Government money purposely to support and improve rural health services.  

Prosecution alleged that these have severely affected implementation of health projects in the rural areas and has unfavourable impact on provision of government health services in the rural areas. 

Lazarus Kwaiga and Amos Ngaingeri of L & L Lawyers are representing Sikele and Manu, John Taupongi of Michael Pitakaka Law Chambers represents Hatigeva whilst Dalipanda is represented by another private lawyer Brian Hiele.  

Solomon Star
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