Penrhyn ‘theft’ charges dismissed

Friday 7 May 2021 | Written by Caleb Fotheringham | Published in Crime, National

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Penrhyn ‘theft’ charges dismissed
The northern group Island of Penrhyn. 18091333

In the High Court yesterday the prosecution withdrew charges against Kanea Turama for allegedly stealing $7718 of public money from Penrhyn island’s energy division.

The prosecution withdrew charges due to insufficient evidence and Justice of the Peace Bernice Manarangi dismissed the charges.

Turama was charged following an investigation by the Cook Islands Audit Office which confirmed over $7000 in public funds was missing.

The report said the Audit Office felt there was sufficient evidence that Turama’s actions were illegal. After the report, Turama was charged with theft as a servant.

The matter was first called in Penrhyn on January 13 this year and last month it fell off the court list.

In court yesterday, Turama’s defence lawyer Wilkie Rasmussen said the matter was withdrawn strangely and he wanted it formally dismissed.

Rasmussen said it’s his understanding the investigation is still underway because no other person has been charged with stealing the money.

Lawyer Rasmussen said because the investigation is still underway, he didn’t want his client to be re-charged.

In an email to Crown prosecution on May 4, Rasmussen said: “I understand the defendant has now been reinstated to her job in Penrhyn and that raises a different set of legal issues to consider.”

“But most importantly from her point of view, has she been properly acquitted so the police will not be able to re-lay the same charge against her.”

Rasmussen said “substantial expenses” have been spent dealing with the matter and that he would like his client to be reimbursed. The decision of costs will be decided by a judge.

Part of the Audit report’s recommendations was that more than one staff member should be involved in the financial dealings of electricity sales, so the problem does not arise again.

The report said at a minimum, the finance officer should review the accuracy of the financial process.