Six Former Members of Parliament Jailed, Trial of Four Others and a Lawyer Begins

Six former Members of Parliament (MPs) have been sentenced to three years and 10 months imprisonment by the Supreme Court yesterday.

The six are Marcellino Pipite, Silas Yatan, John Amos, Tony Nari, Jonas James, and Thomas Laken.

They pleaded guilty to the charge of conspiring to defeat the course of justice. The sentence was handed down yesterday by Justice Gustaaf Andreé Wiltens.

The judge had set the starting point for the offending for each defendant at five years imprisonment.

After taking into consideration the personal factors and pleas, the judge reduced the final sentence by 15%.

All six former MPs were under parole after being released from jail for a previous conviction, whose term is expected to end around October this year.

On the issue of suspension of sentence, the judge said there are numerous compelling reasons which militate against suspension.

The reasons are that all defendants are intelligent, mature men — they should have known better than to get involved; they all knew very well what they were doing and that it was wrong — yet they went ahead anyway; they all have previous convictions, of a significant type, which merited terms of immediate imprisonment; the extremely serious nature of the offending involved, especially given their positions in community; and to suspend the sentences would be to send entirely the wrong message to the community. Not only must the conduct be denounced, there must be a serious deterrent message sent, so that the gravity of this offending is well recognized by all.

While the men had pleaded guilty, and their legal counsel had asked for a maximum one-third reduction in their sentences for their prompt plea, the judge said the pleas were not entered at the earliest opportunity.

“These pleas were entered after a contested trial and after being sentenced, when most refused to accept their convictions; and after appeals against their convictions — when again there was no acceptance of the convictions.

“The pleas entered before me in April 2018 are at a late stage in the criminal process — the charges emanated from acts done in October 2015, 2.5 years before the pleas were entered.

“I acknowledge that the guilty pleas are an acceptance of wrong-doing, and that there will be a saving of Court time and costs as a result.

“However, the maximum discount is no longer available at this time — a generous discount, given the effluxion of 2.5 years, will be to reduce the final sentences by 15%,” Justice Wiltens said in his ruling.

The judge said the defendants had to be sentenced for entering into a criminal conspiracy.

“They all wanted for themselves a pardon to negative the criminal convictions each was waiting to be sentenced for.

“They all (took) steps, of various kinds to ensure the agreement was carried out.

“It’s on that basis that they must be sentenced. I see little to differentiate between them.

“The submissions filed aimed at discharges without conviction are incredibly naiive, wholly misconceived, and quite concerning in providing hope where none should exist.

“Were the Court to consider such a ludicrously lenient and inappropriate sentence, the judiciary would deserve the undoubted opprobrium that would follow.

“Personal circumstances can really only have limited mitigatory effect when the Court considers this type of serious offending.

“I accept that each defendant has suffered a steep fall from grace; and i take into account that Justice Sey, when sentencing for the bribery charges, imposed 10 year bans on public service.

“The three days each defendant spent in custody is a further factor i take into account.

“The discount that i allow for personal factors is four months imprisonment.

“As previously state, i am prepared to further discount the sentences that need to be imposed by 15% for when the guilty pleas were entered.

“The end sentence that i arrive at , in respect of each defendant is three years 10 months imprisonment,” Justice Wiltens said when delivering the sentence.

Five other defendants facing the same charge have pleaded not guilty and their trial begins this week.

The five are Paul Telukluk, Arnold Prasad, Sebastien Harry, Jean-Yves Chabod, and lawyer Wilson Iauma.

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