3 Jul 2003

Cook Islands accountant pleads guilty to secret payment charges

4:01 am on 3 July 2003

An associate of a former chief of staff in the Cook Islands prime minister's office, has changed his plea to guilty in the trial over secret commission payments.

A source says Edward Friend, who is a director of accounting firm, ACL, dropped a bombshell on the second day of the trial when he changed his plea.

He and the former chief of staff, Eddie Drollet, were charged with seven counts of making and receiving secret commission payments, valued at 15,000 U.S. dollars and of forging a letter to cover their tracks.

Mr Drollet remained working for the government at a very high level on a consultancy basis after the charges were laid.

He recently accompanied the deputy prime minister, Dr Terepai Maoate, to the Pacific Asia leaders meeting in Japan.

Mr Drollet applied for, and received, name suppression for more than a year prior to the case coming to court.