"corruption is a deadly evil" - judge

NEWS Chief Justice David Williams issued costs of $5,000 against former Health minister Peri Vaevae Pare in the High Court of the Cook Islands this week. Pare was given an open sentence on fraud charges, according to daily Cook Islands News, in case he reoffends in the next 12 months. Earlier this week, the court found Pare guilty of corruption charges involving $463.50 of public monies spent on building supplies for his house. Williams decided against a prison sentence for Pare. He said it was not significant as the offending had not taken place over a long period of time. However, the Chief Justice strongly criticised Pare. “Corruption is a deadly evil,” he said in passing sentence People working in government especially leaders and ministers should not betray the public trust through inappropriate behaviour. He said it was obvious from the maximum penalty of five years that the offence was a serious one. A discharge without conviction would be quite inappropriate, said the Chief Justice. During the case, the court heard that Pare had given instructions for the building supplies to be booked up to a special community fund. As a witness, Pare had also admitted instructing government workers to carry out renovations on his house – and that it was wrong. Before sentencing yesterday, Crown Prosecutor Elikana Tingika asked that a prison sentence be imposed on Pare. It was important in a small community that a message is sent to warn anyone with similar ideas. Tingika referred to earlier cases against government employees including former chief of staff Eddie Drollett and another employee, Junior Areai, both given prison sentences. He said people who have the same or similar duties as Pare need a clear message that they could expect prison if they offend. Counsel for Pare at sentencing, John McFadzien, said the offending was at the very bottom of the scale and that the MP was the epitome of a pillar of the community. A total of 30 character references were given to the court. McFadzien said Pare had already suffered public humiliation and lost his ministerial position.