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Former police FC pleads not guilty

FORMER Financial Controller of the Ministry of Police National Security and Correctional Service Solomon Islands has pleaded not guilty to the 11 counts of official corruption against him.

Appearing in the Honiara Magistrate Court yesterday, Steven Jude Otto of Malaita denied all the charges and the pre-trial conference date was set for May 31, 2017.

The case was mentioned before Principal Magistrate Tearo Beneteti and she ordered that the PTC documents be filed to the court by May 29.

The PTC will be heard before Chief Magistrate John Numapo.

The former senior government officer was accused of fraudulently obtaining more than $800,000 of public funds through dishonest tender processes.

The prosecution alleged that Mr Oto was the first public officer to have been arrested by the Taskforce Janus, he was the Financial Controller within the Ministry of Police and Correctional Services as well as a member of the ministry’s tender board.

The prosecution alleged that on March 26, 2015, Oto was appointed as a member of the Ministry of Police National Security and Correctional Services Ministerial Tender Board.

A requirement of this appointment was that he familiarise himself with the processes set out in the Solomon Islands Financial Instructions.

It was alleged that between 1 December 2015 and 18 August 2016, Jahman Enterprise, a company Oto allegedly set up and owned, answered calls for tenders and has been awarded business contracts for service to the Ministry of Police, National Security and Correctional Services on 11 different occasions.

A number of these transactions have required Certificate of Registration of Business name from the Company Haus to be submitted together with the tender.

Police alleged Oto, on a number of occasions, supplied a falsified Certificate of Registration of Business name, removing his own name from this certificate and replacing it with the name Edward Laufooa, to conceal his identity.

His business Jahman Enterprise was alleged to have subsequently invoiced the Ministry of Police, National Security and Correctional Services, who have made payments totally up to $817,256.50 to Jahman Enterprises for these services,” a police brief tendered to the court, said.

“Those payments were also alleged to have been made into an account which Oto is the sole signatory,” the document said.

“On a number of occasions, Oto has certified requisitions as the Accountable Officer and on occasions, would allegedly certified that goods and services have been received.”

Florence Joel of the Office of the Director Public Prosecution represents the crown on the matter.

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