Former Gov’t official denies money laundering

A FORMER Vanuatu Government official will go to trial after he denied stealing more than VT15 million (US$130,555) while employed as the Principal Aid Negotiator in the Prime Minister’s office.

Victor Rory has denied 20 counts of obtaining money by deception, contrary to section 130 B (1) of the Penal Code Act [CAP 135] and 20 additional counts of money laundering against section 11 (3) (a) of Proceeds of Crime (Amendment) Act No. 30 of 2005.

Rory pleaded not guilty to the charges through his defense lawyer, Gregory Takau.

The court heard he was in charge of the European Union (EU) funded projects in Vanuatu as the Principal Aid Negotiator when the alleged offences were committed.

The complainant, Johnson Naviti, said the role of the accused was to ensure the completion of the project reports by the consultants.

He said Rory was to hire a translation company for projects to be translated from English to French.

The prosecution alleged that instead, Rory involved his own translation company, Lamboung Edition and Translation.

The charges were laid against Rory after Naviti told him that it was wrong to use his own company for translation work.

Naviti said it is an enormous breach of the trust the government placed in him to manage the programs allocated to him as an imprest officer.

He said government cheques are normally issued based on invoices for work done and production of the final report, which in this case was produced by Lamboung Edition and Translation.

Prosecutor Lendry Young said they will be calling 29 witnesses and they have a volume of exhibits to be tendered during the trial.

Justice Oliver Saksak said that the case will be listed for pre-trial conference on Monday.

The prosecution said the complaint lodged included statements by another senior government official who stated that it is odd to see funds for Non-State Actors (NSA) spent without a proper process and guidelines.

It was reported that others who were signatories of the account of the project were not aware that the amounts they were signing were intended to be paid to the translation company which belonged to Rory.

They said work procedures since 2013 to 2016 were not applicable and transparent, and some authorities had signed the cheques without any invoices as required.

Others said some of the programs of EU in Vanuatu were closed in 2015 but some accounts were still active until they were reopened in 2015 after Cyclone Pam on EU instructions.

The allegations revealed that Rory was presenting the blank cheques to the required persons who are signatories of those accounts and they signed them without knowing the exact figure and what the money was supposed to be withdrawn for.