Chief magistrate rejects arrest bid in Vanuatu conspiracy case

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Former Prime Minister Joe Natuman ... accused of conspiracy. Image: Pacific Scoop

From Vanuatu Daily Post

By Thompson Marango in Port Vila

Attempts to arrest former Prime Minister Joe Natuman and former Acting Police Commissioner Aru Maralau for alleged conspiracy failed after Vanuatu’s Magistrates Court chief magistrate refused to issue a warrant.

Chief Magistrate Felix Stevens ruled that the prosecution and police had failed to demonstrate urgency for an arrest warrant for an alleged offence in 2014.

“The prosecution and the police investigators have also not satisfied me about the urgency of the matter and the reasons why a judicial officer should now issue an urgent warrant to execute a warrant of arrest now in 2016 for an alleged offence and complaint, not only made in 2014, but also related to the mutiny case which was discontinued and entered a nolle prosequi against by the Public Prosecutor in July 2015,” Chief Magistrate Stevens stated in an order dated January 26, 2016.

Although the application for warrant of arrest was refused, the Chief Magistrate  directed the prosecution to issue summons for the defendants to appear and to serve them with all relevant documents before the preliminary inquiry hearing date on 9 February 2016.

According to the Chief Magistrate Stevens’: “The charges are in relation to alleged offences which occurred in September 2014.

“The alleged offences were in relation to the to the criminal proceeding and investigation of alleged mutiny offences against Mr Joshua Bong, a former police commissioner and some high ranking police officers who were the subject of criminal PI case number 129 of 2014 before the Magistrate’s Court in Port Vila,” he stated.

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The criminal PI case was discontinued by the court in July 2015 after the Acting Public Prosecutor, William Timakata, entered a nolle prosequi.

“The charges in this matter concern different offences but related directly to the proceedings in the PI Case 129 of 2014 and have been laid by the Public Prosecutor, 25  January 2016,” stated the Chief Magistrate.

Chief Magistrate Stevens said there had been no attempts made by police to lay charges, interview or even apply for the arrest of the two suspects since September 2014 and no evidence indicated that the two accused were absconding or refusing to cooperate with the investigation.

Meanwhile, the prosecution has been directed by the court to prepare and file preliminary inquiry materials before 8 February 2016 and disclose copies to the accused.

If the prosecution believed that the two accused persons should be arrested and be brought before the court immediately or be arrested, detained and be brought before the court on the next hearing date, the chief magistrate ruled that they should reapply for a warrant of arrest before a judge of the Supreme Court.

The case was adjourned to February 9.

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