Private criminal proceedings filed against Prime Minister Henry Puna and Deputy Prime Minister Mark Brown by a former Democratic Party member have been adjourned to early next year.
Senior barrister Norman George is representing the complainant Teokotai George, who alleges that a charter flight organised by the government was not in fact used for a medical emergency, but was for political use.
The case is based on allegations made in 2018 after a charter flight was used to pick up two government MPs from the Northern Group after the general election.
George claimed Puna and Brown participated in a scheme to bring newly-elected MPs from Pukapuka and Penrhyn by chartering a jet aircraft for about $32,000, “by fraudulently using public funds”.
The fund was for the emergency evacuation of sick patients, the court papers alleged, “when no such emergency existed”.
The second charge relates to “procuring for themselves and the Cook Islands Party the improper payment of $32,000 of public money,” for the same charter flight.
George said the two had breached section 280 of the Crimes Act 1969 and the Ministry of Economic Management Act 1995-96 by committing the alleged offences.
The lawyer said in their first sitting last week that the two defendants were excused from appearing in court.
It is not the only time the government has used Air Rarotonga’s jet to fly to the northern islands. In October last year Puna and a government delegation flew to Manihiki to attend the official opening of the island’s new airport terminal on a charter flight also said to have cost around $32,000
-LL & Cameron Scott