Solomon Islands PM’s wife slams report on family properties as unethical journalism

Manasseh Sogavare (Photo: O.U.R Party Solomon Islands/Facebook)

The wife of the caretaker Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare has described the In-depth Solomons article titled Solomons PM Has Millions in Property, Raising Questions Around Wealth as a publication by unethical journalists who hold themselves as seasoned journalists.

The report, published on In-depth Solomons website, was put together by OCCRP and In-depth Solomons. OCCRP stands for Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project funded by the United States Government. In-depth Solomons is funded by OCCRP.

In a statement, Emmy Sogavare said she was saddened that In-depth Solomons did not contact her to tell his family’s side of the story.

The report stated that despite earning a modest salary, Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare has in recent years rapidly expanded his real estate holdings, building at least eight new houses on three sites in and around Honiara.

It stated unnamed real estate experts saying the houses would have cost at least US$1.7 million to build, and perhaps as much as US$3.2 million.

The report also stated unnamed financial experts saying the value of the houses appears out of proportion with Sogavare’s known income.

It further reported financial experts saying that Sogavare’s known income at the time was too low to typically be granted such loans — raising questions about how he obtained them.

The unnamed financial experts were further reported saying some of the construction appears to have been funded by three separate mortgages granted on a single day in 2018, worth a total of over SBD$7 million (over US$900,000).

However, Emmy Sogavare said her family just suffered a devastating loss and rebuilt their property after it was burnt down during the November 2021 riot.

She said it was a traumatic experience that nearly cost them their lives and saw the loss of a lot of good memories in their old home.

“It appears that In-depth Solomons has no regard whatsoever for these past events.

“They have instead chosen this time close to election to release this story to provoke the public to repeat the event of November 2021 to their properties again. This is culturally insensitive,” she said.

She said their properties were acquired through loans from commercial banks.

“We have a business relationship with the banks just like any other customers and we repay our loans on time. Our properties are rented out to earn income which goes towards loan repayments,” she stated.

She said her family used their properties as collateral to secure loans and as such, all those properties are owned by the banks until their loan repayments are paid in full then the family will own the properties.

“In the event, we default in loan repayments, Bred Bank will foreclose and take back these properties.

“We are taking a huge risk.

“The houses are technically owned by the banks, and like any other parents, the Sogavares encouraged their children to do well in their education so that they can work in the future to continue to shoulder the loan repayments,” Emmy Sogavare said.

She then expressed her disappointment that In- depth Solomons never tried to reach out to her so she could tell her side of the story.

However OCCRP and In-depth Solomons say they sent detailed questions to PM Sogavare, followed up twice and asked for an additional request for comment after deadline. OCCRP says it also sent detailed questions to BRED Bank, It says several attempts were made to interview Emmy Sogavare in early March on the matter.