In court with Assumpta Buchanan - Solomon Star News

In court with Assumpta Buchanan

29 November 2017

Oto’s pre-trial Dec 8

CONTINUATION of the pre-trial conference on the case of a former government officer accused of obtaining more than $800,000 of public funds through dishonest tender will be conducted on December 8.

The pre-trial conference on the case of Stephen Jude Oto who faces 11 counts of official corruption was conducted on a previous court appearance.

The conference was however not completed as the presiding magistrate has raised some preliminary issues regarding the case.

She had asked counsels to review the list of witnesses that are to be called in the trial, saying 64 witnesses are too many.

She told counsels to sort out this issue before the matter returns to the court for the continual of the pre-trial conference.

This matter came back to the court last Thursday but nothing was done as the presiding magistrate was engaged with other matters.

Another magistrate then adjourned the matter for the continuation of the pre-trial conference.

Oto was the first public officer to have been arrested by Taskforce Janus, a partnership between the Ministry of Police and Ministry of Finance, set up specifically to target fraud within the public service.

At the time of his arrest, Oto was the Financial Controller within the Ministry of Police and Correctional Services as well as a member of the ministry’s tender board.

Oto was charged after the Ministry of Finance and Treasury lodged a complaint with the police.

The prosecution alleged that on 26 March 2015, Oto was appointed as a member of the Ministry of Police National Security and Correctional Services Ministerial Tender Board.

A requirement of this appointment was that he familiarised himself with the processes set out in the Solomon Islands Financial Instructions.

It was alleged that between 1 December 2015 and 18 August 2016, Jahman Enterprise, a company Oto allegedly set up and owned, answered calls for tenders and had been awarded business contracts for service to the Ministry of Police, National Security and Correctional Services on 11 different occasions.

A number of these transactions have required Certificate of Registration of Business name from the Company Haus to be submitted together with the tender.

Police alleged Oto, on a number of occasions, supplied a falsified Certificate of Registration of Business name, removing his own name from this certificate and replacing it with the name Edward Laufooa, to conceal his identity.

His business Jahman Enterprise was alleged to have subsequently invoiced the Ministry of Police, National Security and Correctional Services, which had made payments totalling up to $817, 256.50 to Jahman Enterprises for these services.

Police further alleged that those payments were also alleged to have been made into an account which Oto is the sole signatory.

On a number of occasions, Oto had certified requisitions as the Accountable Officer and on occasions, had allegedly certified that goods and services had been received. 

Amos Ngaingeri of L & L Lawyers is representing Oto while Public Prosecutor Florence Joel appears for the Crown.


Yong man jailed for violent offences

A YOUNG man has been sentenced to 14 months in jail for offences committed on other people including his parents.

Junior Daoga, 20, was sentenced on Monday after pleading guilty to one count of common assault and two counts of malicious damage.

Principal Magistrate Fatima Taeburi said she found 20-year-old Daoga’s case serious because he tends to use violence.

“You tend to resort to violence when you are not happy with anything,” Ms Taeburi told him.

Daoga was charged with common assault for slapping a girl who made fun of him while he was walking home last year.

The court heard he was under the influence of liquor at that time.

On another day, he was walking back home when he saw a car parked in front of his house.

He went and smashed all the window glasses of that car.

It was heard the car parked in front of his house after involving in an accident.

Daoga also tried to set fire to the curtain of his parents’ house after he was not happy with them.

“You committed the offences using violence and aggression not only once but more than once,” Ms Taeburi told Daoga.

“You slapped a girl when you were not happy with her; you saw a car in front of you house, got angry and broke it and when you were cross with your parents you want to burn down their house.

“These three times you use violence and aggression shows you have issue and problem with managing your anger.

“You have issue with using violence and aggression on other people,” Ms Taeburi told Daoga.

Ms Taeburi said she also found it aggravating that on those three occasions Daoga was drunk.

She told him that if he has a problem or issue with anger management then he should not have taken alcohol because this will only aggravate his emotions and can easily get him into these kinds of problems.

Ms Taeburi also took into account Daoga’s guilty plea and the fact that he is a very young man.

“You are a very young man with your full life ahead of you,

“You must think and plan your life.

“Think about your life.

“You cannot spend your full life at Rove prison because there is no life inside the Rove prison.

“Life is outside of Rove prison,” Ms Taeburi said.

Daoga was told to think about his life and try to change and do something profitable for himself after he gets out of prison.

The court imposed six months jail term each for the charges of common assault and the malicious damage for damaging the car.

A two-month jail term was imposed for the malicious damage in which he damaged the curtain of his parents’ house by setting fire to it.

Since the offences were committed on different victims, all his sentences were ordered to run consecutively.

The time he spent in custody was also taken into account.