MISSING GOLD QUERIED: Owner hits out at justice system in the Solomons

THE justice system has again come under criticism for a package of missing gold.

A foreign gold dealer Michael Tsingolis alleged there is corruption in the justice system, enough for people not to trust it anymore.

“This matter was under the hands of magistrate Rodgers Tovosia who recently allegedly offered to acquit an Australian accused, in exchange for $50, 000,” Mr Tsingolis said.

He said magistrate Tovosia in mid December last year acquitted a Polish gold dealer Pawel Misiec and his local agent Geoffrey Hanaria of false declaration and trying to evade export duties.

“It was the container of alluvial gold containing 1030 grams, belonging to and purchased by myself, that was mistakenly given to Pawel Misiec by Geoffrey Hanaria.

“My understanding of the situation is that the two packages of alluvial gold were packaged identically and the gold dealer, Geoffrey Hanaria mistakenly gave Pawel Misiec the 1030 grams of gold belonging to me, instead of the 470 grams of gold Mr Misiec had purchased.

“Apparently when the alluvial gold was taken to the Ministry of Mines office it was not weighed but it was stamped as 470 grams without being confirmed of its actual weight and it was only when it was being cleared through customs and weighed there that it was realised that the alluvial gold was in fact the gold belonging to me, 1030grams.”

Mr Tsingolis said according to his judgement, the Principal Magistrate Rodgers Tovosia “ordered that the 1030 grams of alluvial gold be returned to me”. 

“But interestingly, when my gold dealer went to the court office to sign the appropriate documents for the release of my gold on my behalf, he was told that the Principal Magistrate Rodgers Tovosia already gave the 1030 grams of my gold to Chris Hapa, the attorney for Pawel Misiec who had just stood trial for the sole purpose to prove this particular gold did not belong to him.

“Mr Hapa had no legal right to collect the gold and by doing so was actually either an admission of his client Pawel Misiec’s intent to take my gold or theft, or both.”

Mr Tsingolis questioned the justice system and the possible effect it will have on possible foreign investors.

“What kind of a backwards system is this? What is logical about signing the gold that was ordered to be returned to me, to the legal representative of the person who just went through a trial for the sole purpose to prove this gold did not belong to them? 

“The gold is now ‘missing’, it has not been returned to me and no one seems to know where it is.

“Someone is liable and accountable for this blatant miscarriage of justice and I want to be compensated.

“Whether it was the legal representative, or the magistrate, this is corruption plain and simple.

“Having spent time in the Solomon Islands this is a perfect reflection of the way this country operates.’ 

The Australian gold dealer said foreigners and future investors are already sceptical about investing into the economy as it is widely known that corruption and crime is significant and plays a major factor in risk assessments.

“Solomon Islands may be rich with opportunities but is seen more as a potential liability than a potential asset.

“As you probably know it is almost impossible to try to establish a long term business operation in the Solomon Islands as the level of corruption is beyond ridiculous. 

“Most people go to the Solomon Islands hopeful and honestly trying to stimulate Solomon Islands economy and growth as a country.

“I feel Solomon Islands is abundant with many resources and opportunities but for some unknown reasons, people are unable to see the bigger picture and are more concerned lining their own pockets with short term attitudes by taking bribes and corrupting the system.

“In the grand scheme of things these attitudes are holding back the growth of the Solomon Islands as a country in all aspects including tourism.”

Mr Tsingolis said he will be coming back to the Solomon Islands to collect his gold, or someone will compensate him.

“I will alert the Australian media and the consulate when I do as I feel that it’s highly likely that maybe I will be taken into custody for making a claim against government officials, rather than the people responsible being held accountable for this disgusting display of blatant injustice.

“I’m sure I’m not the first person to have experienced an unfair unlawful violation of basic human rights in this country.

“I am sure that once I go public many other people who have experienced unjust prejudices in the Solomon Islands with come forward also.

“Most people are afraid of corrupt legal systems in foreign countries, but as an Australian, whose taxes contribute towards the millions of dollars that are received by the Solomon Islands to help make it a better place, I have the right to be treated fairly.”

He added that everyone has the right to a fair legal system in the country in which they reside, and the first step to fixing this problem, is making the country aware there is a problem.

Magistrate Tovosia is under investigation for allegedly offering an acquittal sentence to an Australian accused Mclaine Quentin in a separate case still before the courts, in exchange for $50,000

The phone conversation was recorded and handed to the High Court during the hearing.

The Criminal Investigation Department through the police media unit yesterday said investigations into the claim are ongoing.

Asked whether Magistrates Tovosia is still taking the bench amidst the allegations, the High Court said a suspension is yet to be decided on.

“A decision will come from the Judiciary Legal Commission,” a High Court spokesperson said.

By EDNAL PALMER / Solomon Star
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