The most experience politician amongst the 16 facing bribery and corruption charges in Vanuatu, Finance Minister Willie Jimmy Tapangararua has pleaded guilty in a packed supreme court hearing this morning in Port Vila.
The defendants of the Criminal Case No. 141 of 2015 includes current acting Prime Minister and Minister of Trade Moana Carcasses, Minister of Finance Willie Jimmy, Minister of Foreign Affairs Serge Vohor, , Minister of Public Utilities Tony Nari, Minister of Climate Change Thomas Laken, MPs Robert Bohn, Jean-Yves Chabod, Arnold Prasad, Steven Kalsakau, Pascal Iauko, John Amos, Tony Wright, Silas Yatan, Jonas James, Speaker of Parliament Marcellino Pipite and local businessman Tom Bayer, were in attendance as alert members of the Vanuatu Police Force stood on guard around the entrance to the Supreme Court at Dumbea Hall.
Willie Jimmy, a former Vanuatu Ambassador to China, has twice in the past held the position of Finance Minister and was former member of the governors of financial institutions. He has also held other ministerial positions in the Vanuatu government.
He told the packed courtroom this morning he understood the charges levelled against him, and when asked whether he was guilty or not, he replied “guilty”. When asked the second time by Justice Mary Sey in a bid to avoid confusion Jimmy fervently replied “guilty”. He agreed to receiving 1 million vatu from Port Vila MP, Moana Carcasses Kalosil and President of the Greens Confederation Party, and for receiving a loan from a non-established commercial bank.
Fifteen of his other colleague politicians on the government bench who are facing a total of 57 charges, have entered a not guilty plea this morning. The charges are categorized into two category: the first concerns the recipient of the loan and second concerns those dispatching the loans to MPs in what Prosecution alleges were ‘bribery and contravenes provisions of the Penal Code and borrowing money outside the normal commercial and recognized financial institutions which is in breach of provisions of the Leadership Code Act.
Those in the category one are the Acting Prime Minister Moana Carcasses Kalosil who is facing 23 charges, Minister for Infrastructure, Tony Nary has pleaded not guilty to giving out VT500, 000 to Opposition MP John Tesei of Tafea Outer Islands constituency while Speaker of Parliament, Marcelino Pipite and Minister of Lands Paul Telukluk have also entered a no guilty plea to charges for lending money to MPs.
Those in the second category are facing two charges each for receiving VT1 million from MP Moana Carcasses Kalosil and for receiving money outside a commercially based financial institution.
Justice Sey also granted an application by the Prosecution to adjourn the hearing to Monday morning but refused to entertain the defense counsels application to “Stay the Hearing” until their appeal against an earlier decision on 27 August 2015 by Justice Sey to allow Prosecutions to apply the Leadership Code Act in this case, is heard.
Another application by the legal; counsel for businessman, Tom Bayer, to deal with his client’s case separately, was granted by the Supreme Court. Bayer is facing charges of complicity to corruption.
Three of the MPs initially facing similar charges will be immune from prosecution following their admission as prime witnesses in this grant trial. They are the Minister of Internal Affairs Hosea Nevu and MP Samson Samsen of Santo, and MP Kalvau Moli of Luganville constituency.
The court house this morning was packed with over 50 prosecution witnesses from financial institutions, department of Customs and Inland Revenue, the Department of Finance, businessmen and politicians. There was simply not enough space for every interested individuals who filled the court yard.
Trial will begin on Monday 7 Sept from 9am.