Lawyer chases police for answers

Wednesday 21 April 2021 | Written by Caleb Fotheringham | Published in National

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Lawyer chases police for answers
Ombudsman Nooapii Tearea. 21042025

A lack of response from Cook Islands Police Service on its conduct during an investigation has prompted a Rarotonga lawyer to file a complaint with the Ombudsman.

Defence lawyer Reuben Tylor has made a formal complaint against the police for how his client was treated but three months later he is yet to hear if anything has happened.

Yves Tchen Pan, a 73-year-old French national who also holds a Cook Islands permanent resident visa, faced a fraud charge in court in late November last year which was subsequently dropped in March.

Pan, who has a black pearl farm in Manihiki, was one of four French nationals to board a repatriation flight serviced by the French navy in November last year.

But an hour before the departure, the High Court denied bail to Pan after he failed to pay a bond of $60,000. He was ordered to surrender his passport to the Ministry of Justice.

On March 18 this year, police dropped the charge due to a lack of evidence. Pan has no criminal record. 

As a consequence of missing the repatriation flight, Pan has still not returned to Tahiti to see his family and there’s no solution in sight.

Reuben Tylor acted for a period of time as Pan’s defence lawyer which was later taken over by Wilkie Rasmussen.

On December 21 last year Tylor made a complaint to the acting police commissioner, Akatauira Matapo.

In Tylor’s complaint he said his client was told by an officer that they could smell he was a crook. Tylor complained this behaviour is contrary to police standards.

He also said he believed the delay forcing Pan to miss his flight was deliberate. “The officers knew my client was booked to travel on the repatriation flight that morning,” said Tylor.

He insisted the bail set at $60,000 made it impossible for his client to come up with the money, which subsequently made it impossible for him to depart.

“After waiting for nine months to return to his home, he was prevented from leaving and is now forced to remain here with no foreseeable way of returning to Tahiti,” emailed Tylor in late December.

“In the circumstances, I believe he has a substantial grievance against the officers concerned and against police.”

Tylor complained about police incompetence and asked for an acknowledgement that the email was received.

After getting no response he followed up the request on January 25. Two days later a response came from the acting commissioner, Matapo, which said because the matter was still in court he would seek advice. Matapo felt an internal investigation relating to the charges against Pan could jeopardise the police investigation.

On March 17, Tylor was advised charges were going to be withdrawn against Pan.

He contacted police again and said because the charges were dropped, police were free to respond to his previous emails.

The email was sent five weeks ago and Tylor has not received a reply, which is two weeks after the due response for any official information request.

Tylor sent the complaint to the Ombudsman, Nooapii Tearea, complaining that the police had not responded.

But Tearea said he only saw Tylor’s complaint yesterday. He said it was due to the computer network at the Office of the Ombudsman being down for a month and only becoming operational again yesterday.

“I and my team will look at the complaint and decide what appropriate steps to take and will advise Reuben Tylor accordingly,” the Ombudsman said.

Police spokesperson Trevor Pitt said Matapo will speak with Tylor about his most recent emails but said matters are still before the court in regards to costs.

“Police conduct throughout any investigation is a serious matter and any complaints arising are dealt with in the appropriate manner, professionally, with integrity,” said Pitt.

Tylor acknowledged the case was still before the court in regards to costs. In March after Pan’s charges were dropped, Tylor said he will “be seeking substantial costs from the police”.

But he said the investigation was already completed so there was no excuse for the issue not being addressed by police.