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MPs now await sentencing

Tuesday 20 October 2015 | Published in Regional


PORT VILA – Eleven government MPs in Vanuatu who were jailed over a bribery and pardon scandal have been released on strict bail conditions.

The men, along with three of their lawyers, had been detained in a correctional facility in the capital, Port Vila, following their arrest last week.

They face a new, additional trial on charges of conspiracy to defeat the course of justice after parliamentary speaker Marcellino Pipite issued pardons for himself and 13 other MPs convicted of bribery.

The charges relate to a meeting that took place to arrange their pardons while Pipite was the acting head of state.

On Friday, police in Vanuatu arrested 11 MPs after president Baldwin Lonsdale revoked the pardons.

Lonsdale said Pipite breached Vanuatu’s constitution and used presidential powers to pervert the course of justice.

The deputy prime minister, Moanna Carcasses, was not named on the arrest warrant, nor was fellow convicted MP and foreign minister Serge Vohor.

It is believed that Carcasses and Vohor were not present at the meeting.

The Supreme Court is due to hear sentencing submissions on the bribery convictions this week.

A vote of no-confidence in the current Sato Kilman government is also looming, but it is not clear yet whether the opposition has the numbers to win the motion in the 53-seat parliament.