11 Jan 2017

Jailed Vanuatu MPs to get gratuity payments

12:57 pm on 11 January 2017

Members of Vanuatu's Parliament who served between 2012 and 2015 will receive gratuity payments including some who were jailed for corruption.

Vanuatu parliament building in the capital Port Vila.

Vanuatu parliament building in the capital Port Vila. Photo: RNZI/ Walter Zweifel

Fifty-two members including 14 former MPs who were jailed for corruption in 2015 are eligible.

The Daily Post reports that under the law, MPs are entitled to $US35,000 each at the end of a four-year parliamentary term.

Moana Carcasses outside court in Port Vila following his conviction

One of the 14 MPs and former Prime Minsiter Moana Carcasses outside court in Port Vila following his conviction in 2015. Photo: RNZI / Hilaire Bule

The 2012 parliamentary term was dissolved by the President amid a constitutional crisis in 2015.

But the Financial Controller in the Parliamentary Secretariat, Willie Watson, said the figure for the jailed MPs has been adjusted because they did not serve a full term.

The total gratuity payout for the 52 MPs is 290 million vatu, or about $US2.5 million.

In October 2015, 14 MPs, including then deputy Prime Minister Moana Carcasses, and Vanuatu's speaker Marcellino Pipite, were found guilty of giving and receiving corrupt payments.

Large crowds gathered outside the Supreme Court to hear the verdict in the bribery trial.

Large crowds gathered outside the Supreme Court to hear the verdict in the bribery trial Photo: RNZI / Hilaire Bule

Pipite pardoned himself and the other MPs while he was acting president, but that move was overturned by the president, Baldwin Lonsdale, and ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

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

Marcellino Pipite

Marcellino Pipite Photo: RNZI/Hilaire Bule

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

But Justice Sey said the evidence showed that the payments were corruptly given and accepted by MPs to influence their roles as public officials.

Most were sentenced to three years imprisonment except Carcasses who is serving four years.

In October last year the MPs tried to clear their names by saying they were protected by parliamentary immunity when they were prosecuted.

They said that under the constitution, their rights as MPs were breached when they were prosecuted because there was an upcoming session of parliament, which they said granted them immunity.

Vanuatu's Supreme court dismissed the claim with judge James Geoghan saying the constitutional provision did not grant immunity from criminal prosecution.

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