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Radrodro’s Sentence Next Wednesday

Radrodro falsely stated to the Parliament in a Member of Parliament Declaration Form that her permanent place of residence was in Namulomulo Village, Nabouwalu, Bua, which was 30 kilometres away from the Parliament enabling her to be entitled to claim travel and accommodation claims.
14 Sep 2022 19:00
Radrodro’s Sentence Next Wednesday
Salote Radrodro. Photo: Leon Lord

Former SODELPA Parliamentarian, Salote Radrodro will be sentenced by the Anti-Corruption High Court next Wednesday.

Radrodro has been found guilty and convicted of false information to a public servant and of obtaining financial advantage.

The court had ruled that Radrodro breached the Parliamentary Remuneration Act of 2014 when she claimed travel and accommodation allowances she was not entitled to, amounting to $37,921.13 between June 2019 and April 2020.

 

Radrodro falsely stated to the Parliament in a Member of Parliament Declaration Form that her permanent place of residence was in Namulomulo Village, Nabouwalu, Bua, which was 30 kilometres away from the Parliament enabling her to be entitled to claim travel and accommodation claims.

In the sentencing hearing and mitigation yesterday, Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption (FICAC) Commissioner Rashmi Aslam and Radrodro’s lawyer, Simione Valenitabua filed their submissions and argued on the same.

The matter was called before Anti Corruption High Court Judge Justice Dr Thushara Kumarage.

 

Mr Aslam’s Submission:

He said in between the case, there were many interim applications which were dismissed by the Court.

Mr Aslam said the aggravating circumstances in the case were breach of trust, substantial amount of money involved, serious damage to the reputation of Parliament, and the repetitive and systematic breach of procedure.

Mr Aslam said the former MP was in breach of trust which was one of the highest breaches that could ever occur in that particular offence and therefore, it warranted a severe punishment.

 

He added that the MPs were distinguished people, named Honourable, called Honourable and had Parliamentary privileges, and most importantly they were elected by the members of the public.

He said the expectation of the integrity and honesty of this public official was not for the State alone, but for the public at large.

He added that the breach of trust was very high when it came to an MP committing an offence, not just any offence, but offence of corrupt nature, offence involving public money, offence involving stealing public money.

 

Substantial Money Involved:

Mr Aslam said the MPs were expected, when they came to Parliament, to protect the public money.

He said the MPs were well paid, there were numerous allowances they were entitled to, and they were also given extra allowances if they were to do their Constituency work.

He added that when they came to public light and public work, it was not only the money they were motivated for, it was the service.

 

Mr Aslam said when you see an opportunity under the Parliamentary Remuneration Act 2014 and see a loophole and an opportunity where you could change your circumstances such as the permanent residence and use that opportunity to gain public money, that was where the court had taken a very stringent approach to consider as the highest degree of breach of trust.

He added the people who elected had expectations that their MP would at all times relevant, inside or outside of Parliament, in the public life or private life, that they were Honourable, honest and act with integrity.

 

Mr Aslam said Radrodro was not new to the Parliament and had been an MP from 2014. He said she was not an amateur or new to Parliament system and was aware of the changes made in 2016 and thereafter.

Mr Aslam said Radrodro saw the opportunity to get the allowances and did so by way of the Member of Parliament Declaration Form (MPDF) and therefore, she was nothing but an opportunist.

 

Intention of Greed:

Mr Aslam said the Prosecution had shown through evidence that her only intention was greed.

He said the court was dealing with a person who was in civil service for 36 years and then she became an MP who was dealing with the laws of this country.

He said they were not talking about a mediocre public servant and a person who was unable to form an opinion whether this act was honest or not or whether she was entitled to it or not.

 

He said Radrodro was motivated by greed and nothing else and the allowance in a nutshell was used as an opportunity to explore her political life and also visit family members, nothing else.

He said Radrodro swindled public money.

Mr Aslam said they agreed that this was a reimbursement, but where was the reimbursement when she lived in her own house, in her own comfort zone with her husband and did not even spend any extra money for staying at her own residence.

 

He said this was the reason the Prosecution say this was a premeditated, well-planned crime repetitively and systematic breaches of procedure.

Mr Aslam said undoubtedly there were serious damages to the Parliament and Parliament was deemed to be, in the public eye, an August House and a noble place.

 

Restitution:

Mr Aslam highlighted to the court that the defence in their submission suggested that a fine may be imposed which would be equivalent to the amount of $37,000 involved and that fine may be a way of punishment.

He said in this matter, the prosecution did not see any restitution and no genuine remorse by way of restitution. Sentence:

Mr Aslam submitted a suspended sentence either partially or fully would not be appropriate in this matter because the deterrent aspect would out the need for rehabilitation.

 

He said he could not imagine that the court passing a message to the public that these types of offences would be dealt with seriously, but a lenient punishment would be given, then all Politicians, the aspiring Politicians, and also public servants would take that as an opportunity that corruption was not dealt with seriously.

He said that message should not be sent out by the court.

 

Mr Valenitabua’s Submission:

Mr Valenitabua disagreed with the use of the word swindle because the court had not found that. He said it was a claim that was made and reimbursed.

He said it was not someone by deception depriving someone else of money or property. He added that it was Radrodro’s thinking legitimate claims made, accepted, and paid out.

Mr Valenitabua said this was a matter of administrative errors by Parliament officials and not his clint.

 

He added it was a new process invented by the acting secretary-general and was still in its infant days. He further said that there was no finding of greed, no iota evidence of greed.

He said Radrodro was complying with the Parliamentary procedure and she was entitled to the claims.

Mr Valenitabua added that this was not a case of greed to be used as an aggravating factor and the Court had not made any finding of guilt based on greed as there was no connection.

 

Mr Valenitabua said for breach of trust, they understood the court’s finding, however, the defence asked the court to consider breach of trust from a different angle.

He said what was presented to Parliament were legitimate claims and that there was a different interpretation of what a permanent residence was.

He added from actions, Radrodro left a place she called home on what she called a permanent residence and everyone accepted what her permanent residence was.

 

He submitted that Radrodro lost in credibility, her integrity, her continuous publishing of her name and everything related to these charges were a punishment for her. He said she has suffered a lot from investigations, charges, up to trial and conviction.

He asked the court to consider that Radordro had suffered a lot and that should be a mitigating factor as she was now disqualified from being a voter and now about to lose her seat in Parliament.

He said if she was incarcerated, she would lose her family and her job.

 

Mr Valenitabua asked the court to consider other options available as this was a different case from all the other cases in the way they had also run their defence.

He submitted the court to consider a discount and said that the defence was available to pay the amount, but asking if Radrodro paid the amount, that amount be made subject to an appeal process that they were going to undertake.

He asked the court to consider in the event they appeal and the Appeals Court decided in their favour, there be a reimbursement to be made by the court.

 

He said another option available to the court was that the defence pay that amount in restitution and pay the fine with a suspended sentence instead of a custodial sentence.

Mr Valenitabua said defence was prepared to pay the fine and restitute the money, provided there was a discount in the suspended sentence.

The Judge said unlike in America, one does not pre-bargain in Fiji so do what is right. Mr Valenitabua said he was not pre-bargaining and just suggesting to the court what was available under the Act.

 

He said Radrodro had an unblemished character until she was convicted and suffered adverse publication and public humiliation.

He added that Radrodro suffered public humiliation of just being charged with an offence as a punishment in itself and a stigma stemming from conviction was a punishment for her.

He said as an Honourable MP and as a Fijian, shame in respect of being convicted of a crime such as this in itself be considered as part of the factor to reduce sentence because she had suffered enough.

Mr Valenitabua also filed a motion in arrest of judgment with an affidavit in support which will be called for mention this Friday.

 

In his motion, Mr Valenitabua sought for the following orders:  

  • That Radrodro as convicted be discharged from the information upon which the court passed judgment against her on September 6 on the ground that the information as amended did no, state any offence which the Anti-Corruption Division of the High Court, had power to try for the following reasons:

a. Radrodro as an MP is immune from legal proceedings pursuant to Section 3 of the Parliamentary Powers and Privileges Act 1965; and

b. Both offences in the information are summary offences triable in the Magistrates Court Anti-Corruption Division pursuant to Section 2 headed Interpretation and Section 4(1)(c) of the Criminal Procedure Act 2009.

And for any other order the court deemed just and expedient.

 

Feedback: ashna.kumar@fijisun.com.fj



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