Court finds enough evidence in betel nut robbery

The Central Committal Court has found enough evidence against two police officers who were alleged to have stolen 120 bags of betel nut during a roadblock along the Hiritano highway.

The court found that the two police officers; 31 year old Timothy Rorepa of Kira village, Kagua, Southern Highlands province and George Ikalom, 25 of Takabur village, Kokopo, East New Britain, in the presence of other officers, used violence while armed with a magnum pistol and rifle to confiscate betel nut bags from Emil Aufe, Opu Laoma  and two others.

The four Mekeo men were transporting their betel nut along the Hiritano Highway when the bags were confiscated during a roadblock along Agevairu between March 31 and April 1,2015.

Magistrate Ben Kome in is ruling said only 13 bags were returned and the complainants maintain that the betel nuts were bound for the central province and not NCD where a betel nut ban was in place.

“It is the court’s view that there is a prima facie case and evidence that they used excessive force to confiscate the betel nut bags.

“Court notes that they were assaulted and beaten by the defendants and other people so this combined with the fact that most betel nut bags were not returned, the court is of the view that there is enough evidence that they conducted an armed robbery,” the magistrate said.

The court on perusal of the court files, noted there was no issue on the location of the policemen at the time of the road block. They admitted being at the roadblock.

Their lawyer had earlier submitted in court that the roadblock was authorised and the confiscation of the bags were not a robbery, adding the betel nuts were bound for NCD when a ban was in place.

The court noted from the police file that the complainants were all transporting the betel nut bags to Porebada and Papa- Lealea, which is in the Central province.

The two defendants will return to court in the next two weeks, where their lawyer is expected to make a response on the court’s finding of sufficient evidence.

Sally Pokiton