Police slow to act on extortion claim

Friday December 08, 2017 Written by Published in Local
Internal Affairs minister Albert Nicholas pictured in parliament with prime minister Henry Puna and Penrhyn MP Willie John. Nicholas has denied claims he was looking for a higher position within Cabinet. 17120749 Internal Affairs minister Albert Nicholas pictured in parliament with prime minister Henry Puna and Penrhyn MP Willie John. Nicholas has denied claims he was looking for a higher position within Cabinet. 17120749

Charges are yet to be laid against publisher George Pitt, following a complaint made to police last Friday by Office of the Opposition chief executive Wilkie Rasmussen, alleging Pitt had committed extortion.

 

Earlier this week CI News emailed Police Commissioner Maara Tetava to ask whether Pitt had been charged as a result of the complaint.

On Wednesday, Tetava responded with an email saying he had not been briefed on the complaint, which has received extensive media coverage over the last seven days.

“Mr Pitt has not been or will not be arrested today,” Tetava added.

Rasmussen said yesterday he was not surprised at the lack of action by the police and had fully expected there would be delays in getting anything done about his complaint.

He lodged the complaint following a series of events after Pitt visited the Office of the Opposition and apparently tried to engineer a change of government. He allegedly threatened Rasmussen that if the Democratic Party did not go along with his scheme, he would publish a damaging story about Opposition leader Tina Browne in his weekly CI Herald newspaper. This he later did.

Pitt’s plan allegedly involved Internal Affairs minister Albert Nicholas and MP Rose Brown resigning from the Cook Islands Party and standing as independents.

Under the plan, further political manoeuvring would have resulted in Nicholas becoming prime minister, and Brown, a One Cook Islands movement member and Rasmussen and two Demo Party MPs being given ministerial positions.

Pitt allegedly told Rasmussen he expected to be paid for setting up the deal.

Details of Rasmussen’s complaint were revealed in CINews last Saturday and Nicholas responded with a statement of his own in Parliament on Monday.

The Internal Affairs minister denied claims he was part of any proposal involving him and MP Rose Brown resigning from the governing Cook Islands Party and then standing as independents in by-elections.

Emphasising his loyalty to the CIP, Nicholas claimed suggestions by Rasmussen and Pitt that he was unhappy and “looking for something else” were scurrilous, mischievous and an attack on his integrity.

Meanwhile, Rasmussen said the complaint issue had been aired at a puna meeting at the Office of the Opposition on Wednesday.

“Those at the meeting were very supportive,” he said. “I explained as a matter of record that I considered an offence had been committed and that as an officer of the court I needed to react. Everyone at the meeting was quite happy and there was a good turnout.”

Note: Nicholas did not respond yesterday to questions from CI News as to whether Pitt was being paid to provide him with media advice.

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