Vanuatu court sentences MPs, including former PMs Carcasses and Vohor, to jail for corruption
Photo: Moana Carcasses (R) heads to prison after being sentenced to four years on bribery charges. (Hilaire Bule)
Vanuatu's deputy prime minister Moana Carcasses has been sentenced to four years in jail for bribery and corruption, joining 13 other MPs — or half of the nation's government — in prison.
On October 9, Vanuatu's Supreme Court found Carcasses had made illegal payments amounting to 35 million Vatu ($452,000) to his fellow MPs when they were in opposition.
Justice Mary Sey ruled that the payments were designed to influence MPs in their capacity as public officials.
Jailed Vanuatu MPs
- Deputy prime minister Moana Carcasses: 4 years
- Speaker Marcellino Pipite: 3 years
- Foreign minister Serge Vohor: 3 years
- Lands minister Paul Telukluk: 3 years
- Public works minister Tony Nari: 3.5 years
- Youth and sports minister Tony Wright: 3 years
- Climate change minister Thomas Laken: 3 years
- Sebastien Harry, Jonas James, John Amos, Steven Kalsakau, Silas Yatan, Arnold Prasad, Jean Yvees Chabot: 3 years
- Finance minister Willie Jimmy: 20 months suspended following guilty plea
Upon sentencing, Justice Sey said those who "occupy a position of trust or authority can expect to be treated severely by the criminal law".
"Furthermore, where an offence involves a breach of trust, the court regards it as a significant aggravating factor," she said.
The parliament's speaker, Marcellino Pipite, who led an unsuccessful attempt to pardon himself and the convicted MPs last week, has been sentenced to three years in prison.
The other MPs, including former prime minister Serge Vohor, have also been sentenced to three-years jail. Carcasses, another former prime minister, received his four year sentence on multiple counts, to be served concurrently.
As the MPs have been sentenced to two years imprisonment or more, they are not permitted to sit in Vanuatu's parliament.
Carcasses' lawyer told local media he will be lodging an appeal against his sentence later today.
Finance minister Willie Jimmy, the only MP to plead guilty to the corruption charges, was given a suspended sentence.
Ahead of the sentencing, Justice Sey called bribery a cancer and denounced the politicians' actions.
Photo: The speaker of Vanuatu's parliament Marcellino Pipite (C) is directed to the prison van. (Hilaire Bule)
"I remind myself that you are the first in Vanuatu to be prosecuted for this offence in your capacity as members of parliament at the time of the offending," she said.
"You were given power and authority. With power and authority, comes an obligation of trust.
"You betrayed that trust and in the cause of doing that you undermined the very institution that it was your duty to uphold.
"For that reason, as I've previously said, a fitting custodial sentence is required that fully reflects the need for denunciation and deterrence."
Pipite sparked a constitutional crisis when he pardoned himself and 13 other MPs of corruption charges while he was acting president.
That move triggered another pending court case for 11 of the now-jailed MPs, and three lawyers, for conspiring to defeat the cause of justice.