The official car for the prime minister of the Cook Islands was seen turning into the home of the man convicted of stealing from his office.
With an unknown driver at the wheel and plainly number plated with the letters “PM” the white sedan car was seen by avaiki nius agency turning into the home of former chief of staff Eddie Drollett at just after 8.30pm on Saturday night.
Drollett is supposed to be in jail over the weekend, after being given work leave Monday to Friday between 8am to 4pm.
Prison authorities allowed Drollett to work with the Pitt Media Group. One of the group’s family shareholders, Trevor Pitt, works as the current prime minister’s senior adviser.
Another shareholder, George Pitt, was recently sacked by the Deputy Prime Minister Dr Terepai Maoate from his position as chairman of the capital island’s state-owned electrical authority, TAUT, Te Aponga Uira o Tumutevarovaro.
George Pitt threatened to bring down the government rather than accept being dismissed.
"I know who is behind this," he told the daily Cook Islands News.
"I must warn cabinet that I will bring this government down."
Dr Maoate – formerly a strong supporter of Drollett and the Pitts – is now accused by George Pitt of being pressured by Mobil, one of the country’s two main fuel suppliers.
Pitt alleges Mobil pressured Dr Maoate into sacking him because of an independent fuel review which claims the supplier over-charged TAUT by nearly nz$170,000.
It is the latest twist in a long-running saga which critics say has seen Pitt use his media group to promote and then attack a seemingly unending series of coalitions between the country’s political parties, factions within those parties, and, as well, personalities within those factions.
Since 1999, there have been six different prime ministers, with even local journalists losing count of the different cabinet reshuffles under those leaders.
Over that time, George and Trevor Pitt have been noted in local media as stepping in and out of a number of different public positions within various coalitions including Foreign Affairs, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, the Office of the Prime Minister, the National Information Infrastructure Committee, the capital Environmental Council and the board of Telecom Cook Islands, either as paid consultants, chairmen of the board, or public servants.
Critics will no doubt seize on Saturday’s sighting as further evidence of links between corrupt public officials and politicians.