30 Jun 2020

Former Vanuatu ministers appear on bribery and corruption charges

5:23 pm on 30 June 2020

The former Prime Minister of Vanuatu Charlot Salwai and a number of his former cabinet members have appeared in court on bribery and corruption charges.

Vanuatu's prime minister Charlot Salwai in New Zealand

Former PM, Charlot Salwai Photo: RNZ Pacific/ Johnny Blades

Mr Salwai was accompanied by former Minister of Agriculture, Matai Seremaiah, former Minister of Health, Jerome Ludvaune and the former MP for Tafea Outer Islands, Tom Korr at the magistrate court in Port Vila on Monday.

The current Minister of Education and Training, Seule Simeon, was originally one of the five defendants but he is now a prosecution witness.

Public Prosecutor Josiah Naigulevu informed Magistrate Josephine Laloyer that he did not wish to further pursue the charges laid against Mr Simeon.

Previously the minister was charged with two counts contrary to the Penal Code.

During the preliminary inquiry the public prosecutor also asked to have the case committed to the Supreme Court for trial.

The lawyer representing Mr Seremaiah told court that the prosecution case was entirely misconceived.

He said the prosecution has failed to provide any evidence that the public and transparent process of appointment in the case was corrupt.

The four defendants were charged with offences of bribery and corruption and associated charges under the leadership code.

Mr Salwai was also charged with perjury.

The main complainant in the case is the former Leader of the Opposition and current Deputy Prime Minister, Ishmael Kalsakau.

Mr Kalsakau alleged that in November 2016, the four defendants bribed MPs who signed a motion of no confidence against the prime minister that ultimately failed.

The Magistrate Court will deliver its ruling on 29 July.

Ishmael Kalsakau

Ishmael Kalsakau Photo: RNZ Pacific / Sally Round