Vanuatu jails 15 politicians for corruption

Port Vila, Oct 22 (IANS) A court in the South Pacific Ocean nation of Vanuatu on Thursday sentenced 14 politicians, including Deputy Prime Minister Moana Carcasses and Parliament Speaker Marcellino Pipite, to prison on charges of corruption.

Carcasses and Pipite along with 13 MPs were sentenced in Vanuatu’s Supreme Court in the capital Port Vila, Xinhua news agency reported.

The court had convicted the 15 MPs for giving or accepting bribes from the opposition to support a vote of no confidence that toppled former prime minister Joe Natuman. Carcasses was then the opposition leader.

Carcasses got his jail term on multiple counts to be served concurrently, and former prime minister Serge Vohor got three years. The jail terms for other convicted MPs range from 20 months suspended for two years to three and half years.

Finance Minister Willy Jimmy got a 20 months jail term suspended for two years as he pleaded guilty to the charges. The other 14 MPs pleaded not guilty.

Carcasses had admitted to offering loans to the MPs from his own funds, but denied those were bribes for the passage of the no confidence motion against the Natuman-led government.

On October 9, the Supreme Court found the MPs guilty of the criminal offense of bribery.

However, Pipite, as Vanuatu’s acting president because President Baldwin Lonsdale was out of the country, used his interim executive powers to pardon the 14 MPs, including himself. After returning to Vanuatu, Lonsdale revoked the pardons, which were also ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

Carcasses’ lawyer said his client will appeal.

The current government has only been in power since June.

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