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    Friday, November 22, 2019-8:18:10P.M.






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Regional News

$22 billion money laundering case: Toribiong denies pressuring gov’t lawyers to drop charges vs. brother, Senate president

KOROR (Palau Horizon) — Palau President Johnson Toribiong has denied that he interfered and pressured government lawyers to dismiss the charges against his brother, former Senator Lucius Malsol, and Senate President Mlib Tmetuchl in connection with the $22 billion money laundering case filed against them and several other individuals.

Toribiong, in an interview Friday, said that he did not use his power to influence the outcome of the case.

“Never once I have interfered in that case,” he declared.

Last November 8, the Palau government, through the Attorney General’s Office, filed a motion to dismiss all counts against Malsol, who was represented by lawyer Kassi Berg, for insufficiency of evidence.

In the same motion, the AG office also asked the Court to drop several counts against the other defendants, including Sen. Tmetuchl. The motion was granted that same day by Supreme Court Associate Justice Alexandra Foster.

A day later, the government also filed a motion to drop all charges against Tmetuchl.

The case hugged the spotlight in recent days after Senator Surangel Whipps, Jr. called for an oversight hearing to look into reports that the President used his power to influence the outcome of the money laundering case.

In his comments, Whipps alleged that the President pressured government lawyers headed by Assistant Attorney General Jason Loughman to drop the charges against his brother and the Senate president, and even went to the AG’s office a few days before the charges were dropped to pressure Loughman and remove evidence of the case from there.

While admitting that he indeed went to the Attorney General’s Office before the motions to dismiss were filed, Toribiong said that he only went there to be interviewed by the assistant AG.

“I was one of the witnesses for the defense. There was a subpoena from defense lawyers. So, I went to the AG’s office to be interviewed regarding the case,” he pointed out.

As for the allegation that he removed evidences and documents related to the case, Toribiong said that there was no truth to it.

“Why should I do it? I am lawyer. I know that removing evidence from that office would constitute obstruction of justice and would send me to jail,” he stressed.

In the same interview, Toribiong also denied that that the “firing” of erstwhile Assistant Attorney General and Independent Counsel Nelson Werner was related to the case.

“There was nothing to it as Werner wasn’t even handling the case,” he declared.

A case for forgery, cheating, counterfeiting, conspiracy and money laundering were filed early this year against the First Fidelity Bank, Malsol, Tmetuchl and four other individuals for attempting to transfer $22.5 billion to Palau.

Also charged with Malsol and Tmetuchl were James Dugan, Robert Bruce Gray, Luis Arriola and Jose Tito Osias.