Court quash sentence

The Supreme Court has quashed a man’s conviction and set aside his sentence term of three years, after he successfully appealed against the decisions.

Joseph Salatiel Tobung, from Lambom village in Namatanai, New Ireland province was sentenced to three years in prison on 29 April 2015 for conspiring to defraud the state and misappropriating K7.5 million.

This was between 1st January, 2010, and 31 June, 2010.  

The Kokopo National Court, then found that he did so, by conspiring with a businessman, Eremas Wartoto to fraudulently defraud the State, by submitting a false project proposal, dated 14 March 2010, to the Department of National Planning and Monitoring, for the rehabilitation of Metlik plantantion at Namatanai for K7.5 million.

He challenged that conviction and sentence on the basis he played a minor role in the conspiracy, as he did not know about the false proposal that Wartoto submitted to National Planning to obtain the funding.

Tobung was employed as an engineer in one of Wartoto’s company, after he bought off land from him.

He argued in court that he thought the money used to buy the plantation came from one of Eremas Wartoto’s companies.

He had no knowledge from which of the Wartoto companies, Eremas Wartoto withdrew the funds from to buy his land.

He received K275,000 as payment for the land however did not know the source of the payment.

“This payment of itself does not show the appellant (Tobung) was a conspirator,” the three judge Supreme Court bench found.

“A reasonable hypothesis is Wartoto was the person who alone made the application for funding. He wanted to bolster the application for the large sum of K7.5 million.

“The appellant (Tobung) was employed in the Wartoto group of companies but his work was as a civil engineer. He was not employed in the finance of the group or in the inner sanctum of Wartoto,” the judges said when finding the verdict of the trial judge unsafe, quashing it.

Sally Pokiton