28 Apr 2017

10 former Vanuatu MPs free on parole

11:58 am on 28 April 2017

Ten former Vanuatu MPs jailed for bribery have been released on parole.

They were part of the 14 MPs convicted in late 2015 for taking money to cross the floor of parliament and change the government.

Vanuatu's Leader of Opposition, Director of Correction Services and Correction Staff farewell ten former MPs released on parole from prison after serving half of their sentences for a bribery conviction.

Vanuatu's Leader of Opposition, Director of Correction Services and Correction Staff farewell ten former MPs released on parole from prison after serving half of their sentences for a bribery conviction. Photo: Supplied

On their release, the Director of the Correctional Services Johnny Marango was there to farewell them.

He said the 18 months they spent in jail was a learning period for his staff as it was the first time they had to deal with former leaders in such big numbers.

In response, the former speaker of parliament Marcellino Pipite said no one was above the law.

He said they accepted that they were involved in an activity that was against the law.

The former MP said they were dealt by the law and now released by the law.

Another former MP Tony Nari will be eligible for parole in July while a former Prime Minister Moana Carcasses will be eligible for parole in October.

Last week, former prime minister Serge Vohor and a former MP Steven Kalsakau were released on parole.

Conspiracy case lingers

The ten politicians released today could potentially be sent back to prison on a related case.

Vanuatu's Public Prosecutor this week filed for a retrial of conspiracy charges against these men and Tony Nari.

After their conviction for the bribery charges Mr Pipite, as parliament speaker, immediately used his temporary powers as acting president to pardon himself and the others.

That decision was subsequently overturned by the president, Baldwin Lonsdale, and the eleven former MPs were later found guilty of conspiring to defeat the course of justice.

They were in 2016 given new sentences in addition to the jail terms they were already serving for the bribery charges.

However earlier this month the Court of Appeal quashed the conspiracy convictions because the eleven had been tried as a group rather than as individuals.

The Public Prosecutor Josaia Naigulevu this week said that the nature of the conspiracy offence remained the same and the former MPs were charged again.

They are expected to enter pleas in court next week

Carcasses, Vohor and Kalsakau are not among the group charged with conspiracy.

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