7 May 2012

Marshall Islands fraud trials begin

10:19 am on 7 May 2012

A trial for three Marshall Islands government workers charged with conspiring to steal money from the national government is scheduled to open in the High Court on Monday.

Jury selection for the three defendants - Steve Samuel, Donnie Andrike and Nella Nashion - is expected to begin this morning, with opening statements likely later today.

This is one of a series of criminal prosecutions started by the government in late 2010 in a fraud investigation that alleges more than 500 thousand US dollars, mostly from the United States government, was stolen by about 10 people.

Today's trial involves the alleged theft of Ministry of Health funding that was paid to a company for equipment that was not provided.

The three are facing two counts each of cheating, forgery, conspiracy, misconduct in a public office, and private financial gain by a government employee.

At a preliminary hearing in May last year, charges of grand larceny and removal of government property were dismissed.

Several more trials involving multiple defendants are scheduled to start later this year.