SENTENCING of the former Central Makira Member of Parliament (MP) who was found guilty of misusing more than $66,000 intended for tree farmers in his constituency in 2013 will be handed down on August 19.
This was after Principal Magistrate Fatima Taeburi received sentencing submissions from the prosecution on Wednesday on the case of Hypolite Taremae.
Taremae was found guilty of one count of conversion after a trial.
The lawyer representing Hypolite Taremae was not present in court yesterday as he was reportedly attending the international youth day program.
Taeburi said this is the second adjournment granted for counsels to address the court on sentencing after the judgment was delivered on August 5.
She was therefore not satisfied with the reasons by Taremae’s lawyer as to his non-appearance.
She added that his duty to the court and his client overrides the need for him to attend anything at the international youth day and then adjourned the matter for sentencing.
Taeburi further added that the offence for which Taremae has been convicted is a serious one and one which would attract imprisonment sentence.
She however was hesitant to order for Taremae’s remand given the significant delay in this matter.
Taremae’s bail was therefore extended to next week.
The incident happened in 2014 and it was not until 2018 that police charged Taremae for this offence.
It was heard in court that the delay was due to police investigation.
Taremae has stood trial for two counts of conversion.
At the end of the trial, Taeburi had him acquitted of the first count after she found no evidence against him and convicted him of the second count.
In 2012, $7, 140,000 was raised and approved by the Ministry of forestry for the purpose of reforestation.
The money as submitted to the Ministry of Finance and Treasury with instructions to equally divide the amount and to pay into the 50 Constituency Accounts.
The amount supposed to be paid to each constituency would be $140,000.
Count 1 relates to an allegation involving $140,000 intended for reforestation purposes.
The prosecution alleged Taremae allegedly converted the use of the money for the benefit of others by chartering a passenger ship, namely MV Arnavon.
Ms. Taeburi said there is no evidence or materials at all from the Ministry of Finance to show whether the funds were actually paid into the Constituency Accounts for purpose of reforestation, or mode of payment made to constituency accounts.
Prosecution evidence shows that in September 2012, $140,000 was paid into the Central Makira Constituency ANZ bank account.
Prosecution evidence also showed that $250,000 was drawn from that account on 8 October 2012 and paid to the Isabel Development Company.
Taremae in his defense argued that when the $250,000 was drawn out of the constituency account he has no knowledge as to whether or not the $140,000 from the Ministry of Forestry was paid into that account.
Taeburi said she is satisfied that $250,000 was drawn from the Central Makira Constituency account, paid to the Isabel Development Company for the purpose of chartering MV Arnavon and authorized by Taremae.
She however said the only issue she has is the disbursement of the $7, 140, 000 from the Ministry of Finance into various constituency accounts including Central Makira Constituency.
She said there is no evidence to say that the funds were actually paid into the 50 constituency accounts and she cannot assume that the $140,000 is actually payment from the Ministry of Forestry as assistance to farmers for reforestation.
Taeburi said it is possible the payment could be from other Government Ministries or departments and from prosecution evidence; several inferences can be drawn as to the sources and the purpose of the payment.
On this basis, Taeburi found Taremae not guilty and had him acquitted.
The second count that Taremae was found guilty of relates to $66, 105. 92 that was intended for funding a reforestation Project for Central Makira constituency.
Taremae said he collected the cheque from the Ministry of Forestry and the cheque was paid on 28 November 2013.
In his evidence, he said the decision to deposit the money into his own personal account is so that he can easily withdraw monies to assist him to maintain certain parts of his constituency at his home.
He claimed that members of his constituency who were living at his residence at the time agreed to this cause of action.
Taeburi said she found the accused deposited the cheque from the Ministry of Forest into the Constituency account.
She said on the same day he drew a cheque in the amount of $66, 105 from the Constituency account in his own name, and then further deposited the same amount that same day into his own personal account.
She said Taremae’s actions could only mean that he had fraudulent intention to convert the use of the funds to his own benefits.
“His actions show that he knew the funds are for reforestation development and that he also knew that the beneficiaries of the funds are the tree farmers in his constituency.
“His actions also show that he diverted the use of the money knowing that he prejudiced the rights of tree farmers in his constituency and knowing that he has not the right to do so.”
By ASSUMPTA BUCHANAN