A team of six detectives will conduct an investigation into the Rakahanga campaign in last year’s general election.
The investigation follows a Court of Appeal decision on December 14 last year, which upheld an allegation of treating against Cook Islands Party candidate Toka Hagai.
Commissioner of Police Maara Tetava confirmed yesterday that the matter had been referred to the police by the Registrar of the High Court last Saturday for consideration, in accordance with the Electoral Act.
Tetava said the team had been tasked to complete its groundwork on Rakahanga in a “swift and thorough” manner.
The detectives from Rarotonga have been deployed to ensure that as much ground can be covered as quickly as possible in the time being provided for them on the island,” he said.
“The police have an important job to do as a result of having been referred the matter from the court. The work will be carried out in accordance with police procedures and treated as carefully and professionally as other investigations.
“The task is not motivated by any other reason than to gather and determine as much information for evidential purposes as can be achieved.”
The Commissioner said the police would not be providing any progress reports or media releases until a clear decision was made on how to proceed with the investigation’s findings.
CINews understands the police team left for Rakahanga on Tuesday aboard the patrol boat Te Kukupa
A similar investigation was conducted into CIP MP Mona Ioane back in 2014. After considering an election petition, the electoral court found Ioane guilty of corruption and referred the matter to the police.
As a result of the decision Ioane lost his seat. A by-election was called, which he contested and won. In his “Tropical Chronicles” column in CINews back in 2016, lawyer Wilkie Rasmussen said Ioane had not been legally barred from standing again, but pointed out that there was a due process of law which required the matter to be dealt with as a criminal offence under the Crimes Act.
However, Ioane had never been prosecuted and continued enjoying the privileges of being a government MP, said Rasmussen.
“This is despite the Chief Justice referring the guilty finding of the court to the Police Commissioner,” wrote the former Penryhn MP.
Police spokesman Trevor Pitt said as far as he was aware, the standard of evidence in Ioane’s case had not been reached in terms of pursuing a prosecution.
“You will note that the court does note this distinction in the standard that is applied.
“The police must investigate these matters to the fullest extent on the merits and evidence of each case (in their own right) - and not be dependent on the information raised or presented in the petition court’s proceedings.”