A MAGISTRATE Court official on Wednesday exposed a $2,000 cash bribe he was offered to alter court records.
Jimmy Hanahunu, who is responsible for civil cases, decided to go public with the case to send a message to the community that bribery is a crime that officials like him will not tolerate.
“This landowner from West Rennell by the name of Jefter came to the court on Monday afternoon this week wanting to see me,” Mr Hanahunu said.
“In fact he came with some documents wanting to appeal the Certificate of No Appeal the court had issued earlier this year regarding land acquisition in West Rennell,” he added.
“We had a chat and I explained to him that what has been legally issued by the court can only be overturned through the same legal process,” Mr Hanahunu, a trained lawyer, said.
“But then I realised that he was up to something.
“He got some cash out from his pocket and offered them to me, saying he wanted me to alter the court’s registry book and backdated it to be in line with the appeal period of the acquisition process.
“That means altering the date back to a day before 16 March, the day the certificate of no appeal was issued,” he said.
Mr Hanahunu said he was stunned by the action of the landowner.
“After he left, I took the $2,000 cash along with the appeal documents and handed them over to Magistrate Esther Lelapitu, who was still in her office at that time.
“I explained to Ms Lelapitu that Jefter offered me the case in return for altering the appeal documents, but I will not do that.
“Ms Lelapitu then advised me that we keep the cash and show them to the chief magistrate on his return from overseas.”
Mr Hanahunu said when chief magistrate Emmanual Kouhota resumed work yesterday, he went and briefed him about the matter.
“I am also reporting this to the police because this is a clear case of bribery.
“I wanted the police to investigate and prosecute the case to ensure such practices are not entertained in our system.”
He said the cash and appeal documents will be kept as evidence in the case.
Mr Hanahunu added he believed some prominent people may be playing behind the scene in this matter.
The Solomon Star is seeking comments from Jefter, whom we were able to identify, but could not locate him yesterday.
This alleged bribery case came at the back of the on-going row surrounding the controversial acquisition of West Rennell land earlier this year by Asia Pacific Investment Development (APID).
APID has defended the process, while certain landowning groups said the acquisition process was a fraud.
APID is currently carrying out bauxite mining on the land.
By CHARLES KADAMANA