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Court clears Pala

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By DEMAS TIEN
THE Waigani Committal Court has dismissed 28 fraud-related charges against Justice Minister and Attorney-General Ano Pala, saying “there is no evidence of any wrong-doing”.
“There is a very large volume of documentary evidence collected by police,” Magistrate John Kaumi said.
“This evidence only documents the transactions that took place in the circumstances. What they (police) do not do is provide sufficient evidence of any wrong doing on the part of the defendant (Pala).”
Pala was charged with 14 counts of misappropriation and 14 counts of abuse of office relating to 14 cheques with amounts totalling about K2 million for the Rigo district in Central. Pala is the Rigo MP.
Kaumi said “after proper and reasonable assessment of the evidence” provided by the police, there was nothing to sufficiently show that Pala had misappropriated the funds and abused the authority of his office as the Rigo MP.
Kaumi said the witness statements, which formed part of the 650 pages of the police hand-up brief, were based on opinion, beliefs, hearsay and were irrelevant and insufficient to build a prima facie case that could commit Pala to stand trial.
Kaumi ordered that the bail money of K6000 be refunded to Pala.
Pala, represented by lawyers Loani Henao and Ralph Saulep, said in statement issued after the court case: “I have always maintained confidence in the (judicial) system.
“Today’s decision is testimony to a judicial system that is vibrant and working well.
“The decision by senior magistrate John Kaumi has proven that there has been no misappropriation of Rigo district funds.”
National Fraud and Anti-Corruption Directorate director Mathew Damaru told The National after the court case that he had written to the district court registry to have a copy of the court ruling and orders.
“I’ve been informed and I wrote to the court registry to give us a copy of the decision. If it’s struck out, then we will look at the file and re-arrest him,” he said.
“But if it’s dismissed, we will write to the public prosecutor to indict him through an ex-officio indictment.”
It was alleged that on March 11 and 12, 2014, the joint district and budgetary planning committee chaired by Pala had resolved that the district buy machineries and other facilities costing more than K2 million. Police alleged that Pala approved the requisition with the intention of dishonestly applying to the use of a Korean company the machineries and facilities intended for the people of Rigo.

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