4 Jul 2007

Transparency Vanuatu concerned about deals linked to lands minister

8:10 pm on 4 July 2007

Transparency International Vanuatu says the government is keeping silent about an alleged breach of the leadership code by the Lands Minister.

Allegations have surfaced in recent months surrounding Maxime Carlot Korman and his involvement in at least four land deals in Port Vila and two in Santo.

Vanuatu's Daily Post newspaper has produced documents revealing that as the Minister of Lands, Mr Korman has issued leases to a company controlled by him and his son on disputed land for less than the market price which was then onsold at a huge profit.

Other allegations point to the minister giving away public land and unregistered property to political friends.

Transparency's Marie-Noelle Ferrieux-Patterson says the government is ignoring her repeated correspondence raising concerns about Mr Korman.

"We jam into the Leadership Code Act which says that you cannot use your powers, you cannot use your signature to benefit yourself, members of your family or people who would benefit you by your political party and affiliations...It's a repeated incidence of corruption."

Ms Ferrieux-Patterson says the minister is contravening resolutions passed at last year's major land summit,

One of its main recommendations was for the Minister not to sign any more on the Land Reform Act on behalf of the Custom owners in dispute, and that was endorsed by the Council of Ministers. So if the Council fo Ministers decided one thing and one Minister is doing the opposite - even though it has not been endorsed yet by the law - what is the government doing? Why is the government not taking measures to protect the people?

The Ombudsman's office has instigated an investigation into the allegations.