· Murray and wife allegedly set up company in 2014
· Krash Transport & Marketing allegedly received $1.1m of public funds
· Couple ordered to pay cash bail of $10,000 each
· Wife allegedly used ‘maiden name’ to conceal relationship
A TOP public officer and his wife accused of defrauding the government of more than $1.1 million fronted the court yesterday.
Suspended Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Infrastructure Development (MID) Henry Murray and his wife Rose, who were arrested Wednesday by the anti-corruption taskforce JANUS, were later released on cash bails totalling $20,000.
Murray faces 19 counts of official corruption while his wife was charged with 19 counts of false pretence.
These were in relation to a company the couple set up in 2014, not long after Murray was appointed permanent secretary, and which received $1, 151,850 of public funds approved by Murray.
Police Prosecutor Rodney Wheatney told the court on 11 February 2014, Krash Transport & Marketing was registered as a business with the Company Haus.
“Henry Murray and his wife Rose Murray are registered as carrying out the business activities of Krash Transport and Marketing,” Mr Wheatney told the court.
He said the couple then opened an ANZ bank account where they were both signatories.
“On 15 August 2014, the defendant and his wife registered the business entity Krash Transport and Marketing with the Inland Revenue Division (IRD) of the Ministry of Finance & Treasury (MoFT) for tax purposes.
“It was alleged between April 2014 and May 2017, Krash Transport and Marketing have entered into agreements with the Ministry of Infrastructure Development on 19 occasions.
“These agreements have been for the hire of motor vehicles for personnel of the Ministry of Infrastructure Development, including the Permanent Secretary Henry Murray.
“The Ministry of Finance, through the Ministry of Infrastructure Development, has made payments of $1, 151,850 to Krash Transport and Marketing for motor vehicle hire,” Mr Wheatney said.
The court heard the payments, which were allegedly made by cheques and electronic funds transfers, were deposited into their ANZ account in the name of Krash Transport and Marketing.
The court was also told on majority of occasions, Murray allegedly granted the authority for payments to be made to Krash Transport and Marketing on the Solomon Islands Government Purchase Requisition and it is his endorsement and authority as the permanent secretary that has sanctioned payments to be made.
Mr Wheatney continued:
“On 13 occasions, Murray has signed a Vehicle Hire Agreement between Krash Transport and Marketing and the Ministry of Infrastructure Development authorising the hire of the motor vehicles registered to Krash Transport and Marketing.
“Many of these Vehicle Hire Agreements have been signed authorising payment for the hire of the vehicle driven by the PS, a vehicle that is registered in the name of Krash Transport and Marketing, the business entity owned and operated by Murray and his wife.
“In short, Henry Murray has entered into agreements with his own business, through the guise of his wife’s assumed maiden name of Rose Tome, to cloud the issue of ownership for a vehicle he has exclusive use of on a daily basis.
“The defendant Henry Murray has authorized payments to himself for the hire of his own vehicle, by MID for his own exclusive use.”
Mr Wheatney added that the evidence collated to date is consistent with Murray and his wife having a financial interest in Krash Transport and Marketing who notably have not been granted any other contract work apart from that with the MID.
He said Murray used his position of power and influence within the MID to manipulate MID processes for his own and his family’s pecuniary advantage.
He further added that through their offending they have benefited financially on a huge scale over a relatively short period of time.
“This financial benefit is over and above the very attractive salary and entitlement package afforded to Murray through his contract of employment as PS of the MID.
“Under the terms and conditions of his contract of employment as PS of the MID, Murray is entitled to a transport allowance of $6,000 per fortnight for a motor vehicle if his Ministry of Employment is unable to provide him a vehicle.”
Rose Murray, the prosecution said, was charged with false pretences for scheming with her husband to obtain those funds.
Mr Wheatney said Rose entered into agreements between Krash Transport & Marketing and MID using her maiden name, Rose Tome, to conceal her relationship and association with her husband.
The couple have engaged Honiara law firm L & L Lawyers when they appeared in Court yesterday.
Lazarus Kwaiga of L & L lawyers told the court the brief facts presented by the prosecution will be challenged on a later date.
The accused are due back in court on August 31.
Chief Magistrate John Numapo, who presided over the case, imposed the following bail conditions:
1. Surrender all passports (official and personal)
2. Surrender any or all keys, access cards, identification cards to the offices of MID including telecommunication devices, cellular phones, laptop computers, motor vehicles, passwords, and pass codes, uniforms and items provided to Murray by virtue of his contract of employment as Permanent Secretary of the MID
3. Not to approach or enter office buildings belonging to MID or MoFT
4. To reside at his current residential address in Honiara
5. Not to interfere with police witnesses
6. Not to contact any person directly or indirectly employed by MID or the MoFT
7. Not to leave or travel out of Honiara or Guadalcanal Province and to report to the Naha Police Station twice a week.
By ASSUMPTA BUCHANAN