Court quashes Wangillen’s conviction

The former acting Treasurer of Ijivitari District, Otto Wangillen, is now a free man after the Supreme Court upheld his appeal, quashing his conviction and sentence of five years in jail.

The high court’s decision came as a huge relief to Wangillen, who spent one-year-six-months of his five-year sentence at Bomana.

Justices Nicholas Kirriwom, Terrence Higgins and Collin Makail today set aside Wangillen’s conviction and sentence, thus acquitting him of the charges of conspiracy and misappropriation of K400,000.

The court found that there was lacking evidence that he knew his co-accused in the small provincial town of Popondetta, and conspired with him to misappropriate K400,000.

Justice Higgins, in reading the unanimous decision of the court, said there was also no evidence found by the court to show how the monies were misapplied.

There was also no evidence against Walligen before the court that he approved the release of monies for the purpose of conducting feasibility studies for the construction of jetties along the cost of Ijivitari.

He was convicted mainly on circumstantial evidence by the National Court on Feb 19, 2015, for conspiring with another person and misappropriating K400,000, monies belonging to the Ijivitari District.

The National Court found that Wangillen, whilst the former district treasurer, facilitated for the purported tender and payment of K400,000 to a David Consultants and Associates, the company that belongs to a David Kumalau Pondros.

They were both sentenced on June 11, 2015, to five years in jail.

Submissions on his appeal were heard on Tuesday on three main grounds, which the Supreme Court upheld.

His lawyer submitted before the court that no sufficient time was accorded to him to defend his case when an additional charge of misappropriation was introduced by prosecution. This was after the presentation of the indictment, or charge, at the commencement of the trial on Sept 3, 2014.

He was committed to the National Court for trial on the charge of conspiracy and the charge of misappropriation was added at the presentation of the indictment.

The court was also told that Wangillen was unable to engage the service of another counsel to assist him in his case after his lawyer ceased to act for him, which left him no option but to ask the lawyer representing his co-accused in the trial to defend him.

The third ground of Wangillen’s appeal is that the trial judge used indirect or circumstantial evidence to convict him

(Pictured is Wangillen and his lawyer, Christopher Jaminan, outside court today)

Sally Pokiton