9 Oct 2015

Vanuatu deputy PM &13 MPs found guilty in bribery trial

8:13 pm on 9 October 2015

Vanuatu's Supreme Court has found the country's deputy prime minister and 13 other government MPs guilty of bribery charges.

Vanuatu MP Moana Carcasses

Deputy Prime Minister Moana Carcasses has been found guilty of bribery charges. Photo: RNZ / Johnny Blades

Only one MP, Robert Bohn, was found not guilty and acquitted.

The MPs were accused of having accepted bribes offered by then-opposition leader Moana Carcasses, who is now deputy prime minister, to secure their support in a vote of no confidence in the then-government.

Mr Carcasses has admitted to offering loans to MPs from his own funds, but denies they were bribes to lure support for changing the government.

But in her summary, Justice Mary Sey said the evidence showed that Moana Carcasses made payments which were corruptly given and accepted by MPs to influence their roles as public officials.

Our correspondent in Port Vila says the MPs have already announced they plan to appeal the ruling.

Sentencing submissions will be heard next week.

A call for calm

Meanwhile, Moana Carcasses has called for calm after today's verdict.

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Photo: RNZ

Our correspondent in Port Vila says hundreds of people who supported both the MPs and the opposition gathered outside the court in Port Vila to hear the verdict.

There is a heavy police presence in the country's capital, and most businesses and some schools have been closed today for fear of civil unrest.

In an address outside court following the verdict, Mr Carcasses called for calm and for people to respect the law.