Hypolite Taremae, was MP for Central Makira and also the Minister for Ministry of National Unity, Peace and Reconciliation when this incident happened in 2014.
Principal Magistrate Fatima Taeburi imposed 18-month imprisonment but suspended one year due to the delay of this case.
Taeburi said Taremae was not responsible for the delays.
She said it took police four years to charge Taremae for the offence he committed and there was no explanation provided from the prosecution for the delay.
Court proceedings on the case were delayed for another two years and according to Taeburi the “delay was substantial…and none of it was caused by Taremae.
“The fact of the delay must be considered in his view,” Taeburi said.
Taremae who was convicted of one count of conversion after a trial was therefore left with only six months to serve in jail.
Taeburi said as an elected MP and Minister of the Crown Taremae was placed in a position where he can access government funds and other benefits to deliver to the public and the people he served.
She said this high position means that Taremae carried a significant responsibility to ensure he deals honestly with funds that were entrusted to him.
“In converting the use of the reforestation development funds, not only did he breach the trust and the confidence of the public, but he had also denied the tree growers in Central Makira, the benefits that they should have received,” Taeburi said.
She said Taremae’s actions negatively impacted on the implementation of the reforestation scheme which was expected to enhance the environment, not only for good of Central Makira but for the nation as a whole.
Taremae received a Solomon Islands Government cheque of $66,105.92 from the Ministry of Forestry and Research in 2013.
That payment was for reforestation development in Central Makira Constituency and the intended beneficiaries of the funding are the tree farmers in the constituency.
However, Taremae instead deposited the funding into his own personal account in 2014.
Taremae did not repay a single cent of this money to the people of Central Makira.
He claimed that the decision to deposit the money into his own personal account was to enable him to easily withdraw the money to assist him 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.
Public Solicitor’s lawyer Rodney Manebosa represented Taremae while Public Prosecutor Dalcy Belapitu appeared for the Crown.
By ASSUMPTA BUCHANAN