Two cleared in Lodge fraud case

Two accused, who were on trial at the Waigani National Court for allegedly presenting fake cheques to a lodge in Port Moresby, pretending to be National Planning employees, have been cleared by the court.

Nelson Aila of Goimga village, Malalaua District, Gulf Province, and Simon Nokue stood trial on three counts of forgery and 14 counts of false pretense.

The trial was held with co-accused Murray Willie of Warakum in the Western Highlands Province.

On Wednesday, the owner of the lodge concerned, Mose Kopyoto of Kopyoto Investments Ltd, the company that runs Lodge 10, gave evidence on behalf of the state against the three.

On Thursday afternoon, their respective lawyers asked the court to dismiss the information and the case against them on the basis the state did not prove its case beyond reasonable doubt.

They moved a no-case submission at the close of the state’s case. State called 7 witnesses during the trial.

Aila’s lawyer submitted that the state’s evidence was circumstantial, or indirect, and was not concrete to support the evidence brought against him.

His lawyer also said the identity of the accused was not clearly stated and the evidence did not support the allegations.

Presiding judge, Deputy Chief Justice Sir Gibbs Salika, upheld the no-case submission and discharged the allegations against Aila.

Sir Gibbs said the state’s evidence against Aila was based on suspicions, which was not further advanced in court.

As for Nokue, his lawyer, in asking the court to discharge the case, submitted the material evidence obtained from him were unlawful because no search warrant was used to get them.

The search warrant on file was obtained 16 days after the actual search was conducted by police.

He also asked the court to discharge his case because there was no evidence he represented himself as an employee of the Department of National Planning nor did he forge the three said cheques.

The trial judge also upheld his no-case submission and discharged the case against Nokue because material evidence used in the trial was obtained without a search warrant.

With the allegations against Aila and Nokue discharged, the National Court will continue with the rest of the trial against Murray Willie.

The fourth accused in the case, who is also facing the same allegations, Samson Monty Manimba, earlier pleaded guilty to the allegations. His case will be heard at a later date.

It is alleged that between Aug 8 and Oct 2, 2015, in Port Moresby, Willie, while in the company of others, by false pretense presented fake cheques to Mose Kapioto, the owner of a lodge, pretending to be employees of the Department  of National Planning.

It is alleged that on 17 different occasions between these dates, Willie and others presented fake cheques with amounts of K55,000 and K1.9 million respectively to Mose Kopioto’s lodge and defrauded him off a total of K628,000 cash.

Sally Pokiton