4 Jul 2003

Cooks public official facing kickback charges changes plea - and lawyer

9:25 am on 4 July 2003

After pleading guilty in the Cook islands High Court to illegally receiving almost 15 thousand US dollars of public money, a former chief of staff in the prime minister's office has changed his plea to not guilty.

Eddie Drollet is charged with receinving money paid into his bank account by ACL, a friend's company which he hired to do the accounts for the prime minister's office.

The Audit Office alleges that 50 per cent of fees received by ACL went into Mr Drollet's account.

The fees were desribed in court as excessive.

Yestertday Mr Drollet changed his plea to not guilty and has taken on a new lawyer - he is now represented by member of parliament Norman George.

ACL owner, Edward Friend is now giving evidence for the Crown.