MEDICAL practitioner Dr Reginald Aipia and his American business consultant accused of illegally engaging in commercial beche-de-mer farming at Lord Howe Islands, Malaita Outer Islands, will appear again today in the Honiara Magistrates’ Court.
Prosecution will this morning confirm if they will be proceeding with the charge of prohibition of catches and retains of beche-der-mer against Aipia’s business consultant Eric W. Hagberg.
If the prosecution do confirm they will proceed with that charge, Hagberg will then enter his plea.
A pre-trial conference will be then conducted next on their matter.
Aipia had on the last court appearance pleaded not guilty to the charges of engaging in commercial aquaculture without a valid licence and prohibition of catches and retains of beche-der-mer while Hagberg pleaded not guilty to the charge of engaging in commercial aquaculture without a valid licence.
Nuatali Tongarutu of ANT Legal Service, who represents Hagberg, will also make an application to vary some of his client’s bail conditions as indicated on last court appearance.
Bitibule Kaehuna of Rano & Company law firm is representing Aipia while Public Prosecutor Andrew Kelesi is appearing for the Crown.
Prosecution alleged the two accused began constructing beche-de-mer farms in the month of July 2017 without having a valid license.
It was further alleged that Aipia and his party began harvesting beche-der-mer on the 10th of July 2017 in the Lord Howe atolls.
The Luapel House of Chiefs and their MP then on 12th of July 20-17, allegedly made a letter to the Minister of Fisheries & Marine Resources.
The letter contains report of illegal harvesting and farming of beche-der-mer by Apia and Hagberg.
Apia is the founder and president of the Ontong Java Development Company while Hagberg works as a consultant for the Java Development Company which was owned by Apia.
According to the allegation, Hagberg from the United States of America, worked with Apia in constructing the farms.
He started working during the initial stages of the construction of the farms up till completion and is said to be responsible for making the beche-der-mer reproduce.
Hagberg was also responsible for managing, advising and setting up the farms.
The duo were arrested and charged after a joint task force comprising of police and fisheries officers went to Ontong Java on 10 September 2017 and discovered five farms of beche-der-mer.
The five farms are located on the islands of Kepae, Koromai, Keukua, Kelomo and Henuai.
By ASSUMPTA BUCHANAN