Tuvalu court jails former PM

Japan, Taiwan interests named in abuse of office trial

FOR the first time in Tuvalu’s 38 years as an independent nation, a former prime minister currently sitting as an opposition member-of- parliament has been convicted and jailed on corruption and abuse of office charges. Apisai Ielemia, Tuvalu’s Prime Minister for four years from August 2006 to September 2010, was last month jailed for 12 months by Chief Magistrate Simon Kofe after finding him guilty on four counts of abuse of office.

However, in a rare departure from the norm, Chief Magistrate Kofe further ruled that the 12 month jail term should only be served during weekends. This frees Ielemia to continue to live with his family in Funafuti, the capital, during the week. And Islands Business has also been advised that he will be able to continue to serve as an MP.

The charges stemmed from the final year of Ielemia’s term, where on four occasions starting in November 2009, the former leader received a total of AU$21,506.07 (US$15,524.52) from two foreign interests.

The money was deposited into his National Bank of Tuvalu personal account, which he admitted in his cautioned interview with the Tuvalu Police and again at trial. Ielemia said he used the money for the benefit of others.

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