Nauru’s new lawman under the microscope

I t could be a classic case of jumping from a frying pan into the fire for Nauru as the government fired its two top judicial executives in favour of another Australian with claims of “deceptive conduct”. After months of wrangling as the business executive arm of the government tried to seize control over the island’s impartial judiciary, Nauru President Baron Waqa caved in to demands by the cabinet to sack three Australians working in the capital, Yaren. Waqa rebutted reports in the foreign media that his government was illegally trying to shut off the largely-foreign-run judiciary and control it to suit its policies. But sackings aside, Nauru’s new star recruit, Andrew Jacobson—a Melbourne lawyer—has been found to have a questionable business record with claims of engaging in “misleading and deceptive conduct”. Jacobson’s company 1800 000 000 was dragged into the Australian Federal Courts and was under investigation by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission—being sued by clients claiming misleading and deceptive conduct and that the company had not performed as well as advertised. Jacobson failed to return media requests for details on his past business dealings in Australia as he flew to Nauru to become the country’s new resident magistrate.

“Compromised their roles”:  Following a string of misdemeanors including improper conduct with staff, the first to go was the island’s lone magistrate, Peter Law. Next was Chief Justice Geoffrey Eames, who was denied a return visa to Nauru. There was more controversy—Solicitor-General Stephen Bilim quit his office in dissent. “For too long, some people appointed to key positions in Nauru—including people from overseas—have engaged in unacceptable conduct that compromised their roles,” Waqa declared as Australian media reported that the Nauruan government was overstepping its powers in keeping the judiciary independent of the executive side of the bureaucracy. “We will determine who comes to our nation.”

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