Minister of Education and Training, MP Seule Simeon is now a prosecution witness in criminal case No.196 of 2020, after charges against him were withdrawn in court yesterday afternoon.
Minister Simeon was initially one of the five defendants. Other defendants include former Prime Minister MP Charlot Salwai, former Minister of Agriculture, MP Matai Seremaiah, former MP for Tafea Outer Islands Tomker Netvunei, and former MP for Malekula Jerome Ludvaune.
Public Prosecutor (PP) Josiah Naigulevu informed Magistrate Anna Laloyer during the Preliminary Inquiry of the case that he did not wish to further pursue the charges laid against MP Seule.
Previously, the Education minister was charged with two counts contrary to the Penal Code.
PP Naigulevu explained that the amended charges, which saw two counts against Seule withdrawn, leaves the Prosecution with currently 11 charges laid against the other four defendants.
Mrs. Marie-Noelle Ferrieux Patterson requested the court to cease acting for Mr. Ludvaune. She was previously representing minister Seule. She informed the court that she cannot act for Ludvaune as MP Seule is now a prosecution witness and that is conflicting for her.
Her request was turned down by Magistrates Laloyer, who explained that the Supreme Court only would preside on that application.
Lawyer Nigel Morrison, on behalf of the defendants submitted that the “prosecution case is entirely misconceived. The prosecution has failed to lead any evidence capable of establishing that the public and transparent process of appointment in this case was corrupt”.
He also highlighted in his written submission that, “A person who is charged with a crime is to be judged on the law and the facts as they existed at the time that they are said to have committed a crime.
“At that time that the conduct that was said to be corrupt took place, the Court of Appeal had not made its decision and so there was no ruling that said that the appointment of Parliamentary Secretaries was illegal.
“The ruling cannot legally have any effect on proof of the criminal charges, unless the prosecution could prove that the defendants knew that the Court of Appeal would at some future date rule that the appointments were unconstitutional. Such a proposition is plainly absurd”.
The PP said the prosecution is not for power sharing nor Memorandum of Agreements.
“It is not the prosecution for appointments of Parliamentary Secretaries.” Naigulevu made the statement in response to points highlighted in Mrs. Patterson’s submission. The PP also emphasised on Bribery and Corruption contrary to Section 73 of the Penal Code.
The verdict of the case will be handed down at 3pm on July 29, 2020.