EU AID SCANDAL

A former senior Government official is facing money laundering charges after allegations that he stole almost Vt15 million, when he was in charge of the European Union (EU) funded projects in Vanuatu.

A leaked document revealed that Victor Rory is now facing 20 counts of obtaining money by deception, contrary to section 130 B (1) of the Penal Code Act [CAP 135] and 20 counts of money laundering against section 11 (3) (a) of Proceeds of Crime (Amendment) Act No. 30 of 2005.

According to the court affidavits, Mr Rory was in charge of the European Union (EU) funded projects in Vanuatu and the Principal Aid Negotiator when the alleged offending happened.

Mr Rory was supposed to stand trial for plea on Tuesday this week but his lawyer, Gregory Takau sought an adjournment because they need more time.

In his statement to the police, the former Director General in the Prime Minister’s Office, Johnson Naviti stated that the accused’s role is to ensure the completion of the project reports by the consultants.

The bulk of the reports were done in English, however there were times when the French version was required and Mr Rory and the support unit had to engage people to help in the translation.

The prosecution alleged that Mr Rory owned a translation company called ‘Lamboung Edition and Translation’, this company was engaged of the translations hence Rory’s involvement.

The charges were laid against Mr Rory after Mr Naviti said it is wrong for Mr Rory to be working as the Principal Aid Negotiator and at the same time paying his own translation company.

Mr Naviti said it is a breach of the trust the government placed on him to manage the programs allocated to him as an imprest officer.

He alleged that the issuance of payment vouchers by the Department of Strategic Policy Planning and Aid Coordination (DSPPAC) prior to cheque payments is not a requirement.

He said that cheques are normally issued based on invoices for work done and production of the final report which in this case reports are produced by ‘Lamboung Edition and Translation’.

The prosecution said the complaint lodged included statements by another senior government official who stated that it is odd to see funds for Non-State Actors (NSA) spent without a proper process and guidelines.

He said the funds were earmarked to support the community projects in small scales and presumably there are templates and process in place.

Others who were signatories of the account of the project also commented that they were not aware that the amounts they were signing were intended to be paid to the translation company which belonged to Mr Rory.

They said work procedures since 2013 to 2016 were not applicable and transparent and some authorities had signed the cheques without any invoices as required.

John Ezra, the Senior Police Analyst within the PMO confirmed that he was acting Director of DSPPAC.

Mr Ezra agreed that he knew an amount of Vt430,000 was paid to Mr Rory for his translation on a project done in 2014 but was not aware of any other translation work done by the accused on the Annual Development Report for DSPPAC.

Others said some of the programs of EU in Vanuatu were closed in 2015 but some accounts were still active until they were reopened in 2015 after Cyclone Pam on EU instructions.

The allegations revealed that Mr Rory was presenting the blank cheques to the required persons who are signatories of those accounts and they signed them without knowing the exact figure and what the money was supposed to be withdrawn for.

National Bank officers confirmed Mr Rory was depositing huge amounts by cheques in the Lamboung Editions and Translations account, and he was using an ATM Card to access the account as the owner.

According to the Vanuatu Financial Service Commission, there was never a registered company with the name ‘Lamboung Editions and Translation’.

There was a company called ‘Edition Lamboung’, it was registered in 1999 but closed in 2002.

Figures showed that Mr Rory started transferring amounts starting from Vt200, 000 up Vt1.6 million from the EU account to his translation company account, starting from January 4 to 21 December 2016.

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