Men guilty of stealing $190k worth of project tanks - Solomon Star News

Men guilty of stealing $190k worth of project tanks

02 March 2021

TWO men have been found guilty of stealing 36 tanks belonging to the Ministry of Health and Medical Services projects in 2017 and then sold them to other people, after a trial.

Deputy Chief Magistrate Ricky Iomea found Wilson Innie Hiro and Hilly Manasseh guilty of 28 counts of simple larceny.

The prosecution called three witnesses at the trial and tendered 29 exhibits apart from the two accused’s record of the interview while the two men chose to remain silent.

In his judgment, Iomea said in this case Manasseh on most occasions was not physically present at most of the times cash was exchanged between the buyers and the persons who transported the tanks for sale.

“I am satisfied on the evidence that he was the inside person at Island Tanks Ltd and the instigator of the plan to sell the tanks,” Iomea said.

“I arrived at this conclusion because he confirmed in his record of interview that he was the one who received the two cheques paid for the Rural Water Supplies and Sanitation Hygiene (RWASH) projects,” Iomea stated in his judgment.

Iomea said he found evidence that Innie Hiro was not an employee of Island Tanks or RWASH.

“Why did he have to go and collect the tank and told the two ladies at Island Tanks that he was there to collect RWASH tank?

“The only reasonable conclusion available on the circumstances is that he did what he did on the advice of the accused Manase who was working at Island Tanks ltd and who was aware of the payments for the tanks.”

It was heard in court that in April 2016, two payments totaling up to $194,600 were made for two projects, one for Guadalcanal Plains Palm Oil Limited (GPPOL) and the other for Renbel.

These were for 36 Rotamould tanks.

It was also heard that the two payments, $99,340 for the GPPOL Project and $95,260 for the Kanaba project in Renbel were paid to Island Tanks.

Those tanks were however never delivered to the Rural Water Supplies and Sanitation Hygiene (RWASH)/Ministry of Health and Medical Services warehouse.

The court had heard that instead, the two men conspired, and collected the 36 tanks on different dates and sold them to other people.

They then shared the proceeds of the sale.

Iomea also said that one of the prosecution witnesses, (J.R) who gave evidence at the trial was one of the persons involved in securing buyers for the two accused.

“According to him (J.R), he was called by Willie and was asked to find someone who might be interested in tanks.

“On the same day, he met Willie, Hilly, and Patty at the Shop Factory area.

“He then asked them about the tank whether it was stolen or not and Willie told him it was a project one.

“He then rang Frank who was a driver to bring his truck to Ranadi.

“According to him, when the truck arrived, Hilly had already left for his office at Island Tanks.

“This witness identified the persons he was referring to as Willy and Hilly to be the two accused.”

Iomea said J.R identified the two accused in court.

Another prosecution witness, (A.T) who used to work as a sales assistant at Island Tank said in 2017 recalled RWASH ordered some tanks.

However, said she recalled Hilly did delivery after working hours because he told her the next day.

Iomea said according to this witness, she said their boss did not allow delivery after hours.

Prosecution witness G.I said he was asked by the RWASH manager to confirm whether payments were made to Island tanks already or not.

He told the court he went to Island Tanks and an employee there checked their computer records and confirmed the payment of $194,600 were paid and the 36 tanks were already collected.

Iomea said Hiro in his record of an interview with the police had told the court in February 2017 he went to Island Tank, showed a receipt to the two ladies at the office, and told them he was there to collect RWASH tanks.

It was heard that after that time, he went on other different dates collecting tanks from Island Tank and delivered the tanks to a number of people who bought the tanks from them.

Manasseh in his record of the interview also said RWASH came to Island Tanks and paid two cheques for the tanks.

He said there were 36 tanks for the two projects and that he received the cheques and receipted them in May 2016.

Manasseh had stated tanks were never delivered to RWASH because the men who wanted to sell the tanks forced him to give them the tanks.

He said the men forced him because they would call and say the money was already in their hands and then they gave him a commission.

Manasseh also said if he had not been involved, it would be difficult for the men to take the tanks but they forced him.

Sentencing submissions and mitigation on this matter will be made in court on March 11.

Public Solicitor’s lawyers Rodney Manebosa and Daniel Kwalai represent the two accused while Public Prosecutor Margaret Suifa’asia was prosecuting.

Newsroom, Honiara