Court dismiss Wobiro's appeal

Ati Wobiro’s hopes of contesting the 2017 National General Elections are now gone after the Supreme Court dismissed an appeal against his conviction at 1:30pm today.

It was an anxious wait for Wobiro, Dr Modowa Gumoi,  Norman May and their families who turned up in numbers to the Waigani National Court precinct.

On standby at the airport was a chartered jet that would fly him to Kiunga, if the court had ruled in his favour.

The decision of the three-man Supreme Court bench however went against them.  The bench by majority dismissed his appeal against conviction and sentence.

They found that they did conspire and misappropriated K350,000 when they lied about the JDP&BPC meeting of March 28, 2013. This was the meeting that they made up to sign the MOA which led to the establishment of Fly Care Inc Foundation.

The court however did agree that they did not misappropriate K7m but K350,000 and the 10 year sentence for misappropriation was excessive, given they were convicted for misappropriating K350,000.

By majority, the court quashed the 10 year sentence and substituted that with seven years, of which one year was suspended.

Wobiro, Gumoi and May will now serve a term of six years and be placed on two years good behaviour bond upon their release from Bomana.

That sentence will be served concurrent for both offense of conspiracy to defraud and misappropriation.

 Justices Panuel Mogish and Stephen Kassman found that the trial judge (Justice Martin Ipang) did not make any error in convicting Wobiro, Gumoi and May.

 “In fact there were no such meeting. The engagement of Fly Care Foundation as evidence in an updated Memorandum of Agreement was never sanctioned by the JDP&BPC and was illegally entered into,” they said in their decision.

“The underlying intension behind the MOA was to enable monies paid to Fly Care Foundation and bank release to New Century to pay for Wobiro’s personal debts, using state funds, something contrary to law,” the two judges further said.

Given the three prisoners level of education and experience, the bench said they knew what they were doing was dishonest.

As for the sentence, both judges said misappropriation committed by highly educated Papua New Guineans is prevalent and a deterrent and punitive sentence is called for in this case.

Justice George Manuhu on the other hand agreed with the points raised in the grounds of appeal against conviction.

He was of the view that the trial judge did not make separate findings against each individual and they part they played in conspiring to defraud and misappropriate state funds.

He said Wobiro, Gumoi and May were tried jointly but the evidence against them has to be heard and considered separately. 

The three were convicted on July 26, 2016 for conspiring to defraud the State and misappropriating monies.  They were sentenced 10 years in prison on November 18, 2016.

That sentence has been reduced to six years.


Sally Pokiton