Neves questioned by police

Wednesday January 06, 2016 Written by Published in Local

Former Financial Secretary Richard Neves has been questioned by police relating to government appropriation during the last financial year.

 

Police Commissioner, Maara Tetava recently confirmed to CI News, police had questioned Neves in regard to the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) investigation into the Cook Islands Party government’s spending.

The New Zealand Serious Fraud Office was not involved in investigating Neves, he said.

Neither Tetava nor FIU head Bob Williams were willing to disclose exactly why Neves was questioned. However, he was free to leave Rarotonga and return to Canberra, Australia, last month.

Williams told CI News yesterday he was unwilling to comment on the police questioning of Neves as he did not want to compromise the investigation.

He said the FIU had a “list of people” they were interviewing about a number of complaints.

Williams confirmed the investigation centred on the spending of public money, including the government decision to advance $200,000 to Pacific Schooners for the vessel Tiare Taporo.

The investigation came under the spotlight in November when a legal opinion written by Barrister of the High Court of the Cook Islands, Dr Alex Frame was leaked to the Cook Islands Herald’s George Pitt.

The legal opinion written by Frame was done as part of the FIU’s investigation into the government’s use of Section 70 of the Cook Islands Constitution, which was used to sign off spending millions of dollars through Executive Council Orders.

Public spending is usually only signed off once it is debated and voted on by the 24 Members of Parliament.

However, Brown and Neves have consistently denied any wrongdoing on the part of the government to use this mechanism.

Williams was unable to disclose when the investigation would be complete, but confirmed it would be before the end of this year.

Minister of Finance Mark Brown told CI News in November he understood he would also be questioned by the FIU.

“I welcome any sort of investigation because I’m confident they’ve got nothing to find – I’ve got nothing to hide,” he said at the time. New Financial Secretary Garth Henderson said he was unaware that Neves was questioned by police.         

 

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