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Regional News

Palau court orders Remengesau to pay $156K fine

KOROR (Palau Horizon) - Associate Justice Kathleen Salii has imposed a total of $156,400 in fines on former President and now Sen. Tommy Remengesau Jr. for failing to comply with the financial disclosure requirements of the Code of Ethics.

Salii said the fine takes into account Remengesau’s assets listed in the pre-sentence investigation report as supplemented by the prosecution.

In her sentencing order, she said it was "inconceivable for a man of the defendant's education and sophistication to misunderstand the self-evident instructions on the disclosure form.”

She said a fine “equivalent to the value of the properties he failed to disclose will, hopefully, also sufficiently deter other similarly situated defendants from concealing assets in their financial disclosure statements."

This fine was based on the value of each piece of property that Remengesau concealed from his 2002-2003 financial disclosure statements.

Salii rejected Remengesau and the government’s recommendations on the amount of fine that should be imposed on the former president.

Salii said the government’s recommended fine is not justified in light of the fact that this is the first prosecution of the financial disclosure requirements of the Code of Ethics.

She noted that these provisions are sufficiently vague as to require the Office of the Special Prosecutor to conduct a session to brief members of the national legislature, or the Olbiil Era Kelulau.

Salii said Remengesau’s recommendation is equally unjustified and his suggested sentence “would amount to little more than a slap on the wrist.”

Special Prosecutor Michael Copeland recommended a fine of $1,357,500 while Remengesau suggested a suspended fine of $1,000.

“A suspended sentence is simply not enough to punish the defendant for his wrongdoing or deter other elected or public officials from violating the reporting requirements of the Ethics Act,” Salii said.

She said based on the supplemented information presented during the hearing on Dec. 18, Remengesau had assets of at least $185,538 in local accounts in his name alone.

The amount does not include any accounts in either his or his wife’s names in trust for any of their children or grandchildren.

There are also additional lands within Palau with which Remengesau has interest in, and these lands were not included in the pre-sentence investigation report.

Copeland said he is satisfied with the sentence.

"I am proud of the work my office conducted in this matter, and we are pleased with the court's verdict and sentence. We join the court in hoping that this sentence will deter violations from occurring in the future. However, one question remains to be answered: Where did former President Remengesau get the money to acquire all of these assets?"