Tuesday 7 July 2015 | Published in Regional
Geoffrey Vaki was on Friday sentenced to three years in jail with hard labour on contempt charges for obstructing an arrest warrant issued against the Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill, last year.
That warrant had been obtained by the anti-corruption investigative unit, Taskforce Sweep, over O’Neill’s alleged involvement in approving illegal payments to a law firm.
But O’Neill refused to go in for questioning and sacked the then commissioner Tom Kulunga, replacing him with Geoffrey Vaki, who subsequently ruled out an arrest.
Sam Koim, who is the head of Taskforce Sweep, told Radio New Zealand’s Dateline Pacific that Vaki’s sentencing vindicates his investigation.
“The sentence of three years with hard labour is to my knowledge the highest penalty ever in this jurisdiction for cases of contempt of court.,” Koim said.
“And that demonstrates how serious the court is treating interference into the arrest warrant against the Prime Minister that we obtained a year ago.
“So the court today in convicting and sentencing Geoffrey Vaki has vindicated its authority that court orders must be obeyed and obeyed to the letter of the order and that’s a very strong message that is being sent out to the police force as well as every other person in authority – that court orders must be respected and the rule of law must be observed.”
DATELINE PACIFIC: And so what does this mean for the arrest warrant and for the investigation into the whole Paraka lawyer payments?
“The decision upholds the arrest warrant that we’ve obtained and also vindicates us of any allegations of compromise that may have been directly or indirectly insinuated against us,” Koim said.
“This decision also upholds the warrant and it is a live warrant at the moment ready to be executed – except for the stay order that was obtained at the Supreme Court and the National Court.”
DATELINE PACIFIC: And so what is the situation with that stay order, when is that judicial review meant to come about?
“Our lawyers are working very hard to ensure that those orders are discharged. They’ve filed applications.
“Those matters are expected to be heard in the near future. One of which, the Supreme Court matter, that is coming on the 13th of this month so as soon as the stay orders are discharged then that will pave the way for the warrant of arrest of be executed.
DATELINE PACIFIC: And you’re expecting no problems with this judicial review when it comes back before the courts, you expect the arrest warrant for Peter O’Neill to be reactivated?
“No, this decision, like I said, it vindicates us and at the same time it also reinforces the validity of the warrant that we obtained and that warrant does not go away until it is properly discharged by the execution of it.”