2 Jul 2003

Barak Sope censured by Vanuatu's Ombudsman

5:00 pm on 2 July 2003

The former Vanuatu Prime Minister, Barak Sope, has rejected an Ombudsman's report that he had failed to disclose his annual earnings as ordered by the Leadership Code.

The report, issued last month, said Mr Sope had failed to record twenty thousand US dollars deposited in his wife's account by controversial businessman Amandra Nath Gosh.

But Mr Sope says the money was his wife's and had nothing to do with him.

He has accused the Ombudsman of deliberately tarnishing his political career before a by-election due in his vacant seat later this year.

But the Ombudsman says Mr Sope's wife was also covered by the Leadership Code.

Mr Gosh, a Vanuatu based Thai businessman was made the honorary Thai consul by Mr Sope when he was Prime Minister.

And he controversially offered the Sope government a supposedly enormous ruby valued at 175 million US dollars, which the Government intended using as collateral.

The deal never went ahead.

Meanwhile Mr Sope's hotel, the Talimoru, has been put on the market after his failure to meet bank loan commitments.