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Trio guilty in high-profile corruption case

Wednesday 31 January 2024 | Written by Al Williams | Published in BREAKING NEWS, Court, Crime, National

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Trio guilty in high-profile corruption case
From left: Nga Puna, Diane Charlie-Puna and Robert Tapaitau outside the High Court in July. AL WILLIAMS / 23070220

Deputy Prime Minister Robert Tapaitau, former National Environment Service (NES) director Nga Puna, and his wife and former Secretary of Infrastructure Cook Islands (ICI), Diane Charlie-Puna have been found guilty of “all or most offences” following a judgement given by Chief Justice Patrick Keane.

In his ruling CJ Keane said: “In my decision, issued today, which this minute accompanies, I have found each defendant guilty of all or most of the offences with which they are charged, and have convicted them of those offences.”

The trio were accused of taking public funds amounting to $70,000 between April 2019 and March 2021.

Tapaitau faced three charges of using a document to obtain pecuniary advantage and one charge of conspiracy to defraud.

CJ Keane ruled: “Mr Tapaitau is guilty of all offences with which he is charged; and I convict him accordingly.”
Charlie-Puna faced seven charges of using a document to obtain pecuniary advantage and a charge of conspiracy to defraud to which she entered a guilty plea on June 1, 2023.

In his ruling, CJ Keane said: “Mrs Puna is guilty of all offences with which she is charged, including those to which she has pleaded guilty, except those on which she has been discharged and charges 5,13; and I convict her accordingly.”

Nga Puna faced 22 charges of using a document to obtain pecuniary advantage, one of conspiracy to defraud, one of uttering a forged document and five charges of forgery.

CJ Keane ruled: “Mr Puna is guilty of all offences with which he is charged, except charges14, 25; and I convict him accordingly.”

They will be sentenced in March.

-          Full story in tomorrow’s edition