By DEMAS TIEN
THE Waigani National Court has dismissed a judicial review case seeking to set aside a warrant of arrest issued for Prime Minister Peter O’Neill in 2014 regarding allegations of official corruption levelled against him.
Justice Colin Makail dismissed the case because the decision of Chief Magistrate Nerrie Eliakim to issue the warrant of arrest on June 12, 2014, was not reviewable and that the case was an abuse of process.
The case was initially filed by former police commissioner Geoffrey Vaki on July 14, 2014, to review Eliakim’s decision to issue the warrant of arrest because he wanted to have an independent team of detectives to review and assess the allegations against O’Neill.
The court later granted leave to O’Neill to join as second plaintiff and also granted leave to him to apply for judicial review on Eliakim’s decision.
Gari Baki, after replacing Vaki as the commissioner, joined in the proceedings as third plaintiff.
The court noted that the common ground between O’Neill, Baki and the state during the trial was that they all wanted the warrant of arrest to be set aside on the grounds that, among others, the chief magistrate acted without her jurisdiction in issuing the warrant of arrest when there was no information, and that the warrant of arrest did not disclose an offence known to law.
Justice Makail referred to Supreme Court views in two other cases explaining the different roles and responsibilities of the national court when dealing with criminal cases and why the national court’s civil jurisdiction should not be used by litigants to stop a criminal process from being completed.
He said one of the Supreme Court cases he relied on supported the traditional view that criminal processes and procedures such as police investigation, arrest and charge of a person suspected of committing an offence should not be stopped by a civil court.
He said the criminal process once set into motion must be allowed to be completed by itself.
“This is not a peculiar or exceptional case and just because it involves the prime minister does not make it any different from others in terms of how the criminal laws of this country should be applied,” Justice Makail said in the judgment.
He said the option suggested by the plaintiffs for the police to revisit the allegation and reapply for a warrant of arrest was not a viable one.
The court also dismissed a motion moved yesterday by O’Neill’s lawyer Jerome Sioni, from Twivey Lawyers, seeking to have the court’s decision enforced after 14 days.
Justice Makail said the motion was another attempt by O’Neill to delay the criminal process.
The warrant of arrest against O’Neill was obtained by the deputy director of the National Fraud and Anti-Corruption Directorate (NFACD) Timothy Gitua before the chief magistrate on June 12, 2014, to arrest O’Neill on allegations that he corruptly directed to obtain a monetary benefit for Paul Paraka Lawyers in the discharge of the duties of his office as the prime minister.
NFACD director Mathew Damaru said yesterday, after the court decision, that it was now open to the police to execute the warrant of arrest against O’Neill.
Damaru said the onus was now upon Baki to see that the warrant of arrest was executed and for O’Neill to be brought to the NFACD office for questioning.
A spokesman for O’Neill said they would appeal the decision.
By DEMAS TIEN