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Bayer not guilty

THE prosecution case against businessman Thomas Bayer for complicity to bribery and corruption was ‘doomed to failure’, the Supreme Court has ruled this week.

Justice JP Geoghegan said he was satisfied that the evidence presented by the prosecution provided ‘no proper basis upon which a lawful conviction could be entered’.

He said that after looking at the prosecution case, he saw circumstantial evidence which, ‘perhaps gives rise to suspicion and speculation, particularly given the timing of the various events ...but falls far short of evidence which could provide a basis for a lawful conviction’.

The prosecution alleged that Mr Bayer, as a director of a company known as Pacific International Trust Company Ltd (PITCO), aided or procured an offence of bribery or corruption of a number of Members of Parliament.

“It was alleged that between October 21-30, 2014, Mr Bayer procured the transfer of VT35 million through PITCO bank accounts, and that a portion was then transferred by him into the personal bank account of convicted MP Moana Carcasses, who in turn distributed that money among 14 MPs for the purpose of influencing their voting on a vote of No Confidence against the government.

However, Judge Geoghegan said in his judgement that there was no evidence which established that any agreements relied upon by the prosecution were sham arrangements entered into for the purpose of aiding the commission of the offence of bribery.

He said that according to the evidence given in court, there was no direct communication between Mr Bayer and Mr Carcasses regarding the latter’s intention to use the funds, which he had received from his wife, for the purposes of bribery.

The court heard that it was Marie Louise Milne, the wife of Mr Carcasses, who dealt with PITCO in relation to the sale of land.

The court found that the money transferred to Mrs Milne was to purchase land in Rentapao, where PITCO was recorded as the optionee in an agreement signed on October 27, 2014 between Mrs Milne and PITCO.

The agreement provided that on payment of the sum of VT35 million, the optionee would acquire the option to purchase the land for the sale price of VT315 million for a period commencing on October 27, 2014 and expiring on March 31, 2015.

The Judge said that Mrs Milne signed a letter instructing PITCO that the payment be made to her husband’s ANZ Bank account in Port Vila.

It was made clear in the hearing that Mr Bayer did not sign the cheque, nor did he have any agreement with Mr Carcasses himself.

Judge Geoghegan said that ‘there was no evidence of any knowledge on the part of Mr Bayer of Mr Carcasses’ intention to bribe other members of Parliament or any intent on the part of Mr Bayer to assist such a process’.

He said that there was no evidence at all about the knowledge Mr Carcasses had regarding the receipt of the money.

He said that the relative speed at which the money was transferred and disbursed was not something which, in his assessment, justified the drawing of any inference, not least one which was adverse to Mr Bayer.

He went on to say: “There is absolutely no evidence which links Mr Bayer directly to Mr Carcasses.

“There is no evidence of any communication between Mr Bayer and Mr Carcasses regrading Mr Carcasses’ intention to use the funds which he received from his wife for the purposes of bribery.

“There is no evidence of any knowledge on the part of Mr Bayer of Mr Carcasses’ intention to bribe other members of Parliament or of any intent on the part of Mr Bayer to assist such a process.

“In addition, the evidence such as it is, does not permit me to draw any inference as to Mr Bayer’s knowledge and intention regarding the commission of the offences with which he is charged.’’

He concluded: “In the absence of such evidence, the prosecution of Mr Bayer is doomed to failure, and for these reasons I am satisfied that the evidence presented by the prosecution provides no proper basis upon which a lawful conviction could be entered.

“Accordingly, pursuant to section 164 (1) Criminal Procedure Code, I find that there is no evidence upon which Mr Bayer could be convicted and I therefore pronounce a verdict of not guilty in respect of both charges.”

The four-day trial then ended with no case to answer, which meant that Mr Bayer’s counsel was not even required to present his case.

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