Wartoto: Consider health in sentence

Businessman Eremas Wartoto who was convicted of misappropriating K6m has asked the Waigani National Court to consider his health condition when deciding his sentence.

He told the court he is willing to repay any amount deemed fit by the court as his penalty.

Wartoto returned before Justice George Manuhu today where he was given the opportunity to address the court on what sentence he thinks the court should impose on him.

He apologised to the court and the State for the resources used to conduct the trial which resulted in his guilty verdict on March 29.

"I am very sorry. I thought the things i was doing is right  but now I realise it’s not right and I apologise to the State and the people of Papua New Guinea," the 52 year old from Raburua village, East New Britain said.

He also asked the court to consider the things he did to contribute to the development of the country.

His lawyer asked the court to allow him to repay the monies back to the Kerevat National High School as  his penalty, adding it would be in the best interest of the public to do so.

While he could not provide to the court a bank statement to show the court that his client can repay those monies, he made mention of his properties in Cairns which have become subject to proceeds of crime.

His lawyer asked the court to consider his health condition as special circumstance.

Wartoto is a heart patient of the Sir Buri Kidu Heart Institute. He is also diabetic.

The State submitted a sentence of 8 to 10 years in jail would be appropriate and restitution must not be used by the rich and wealthy to avoid jail time.

The State prosecutor however said that if the court decides it's sentence in form of restitution, those monies must be from his personal funds and not from family.

State also told the court Wartoto has five houses and funds in three banks in Australia which came under Proceeds of Crime assessment in 2012.

The court reserved it's decision of sentence to early next month.

This case against Wartoto involves the misuse of funds allocated and paid to Sarakolok West Transport (SWT) for the renovation of facilities at the Kerevat National High school back in November of 2008.

Wartoto was facing two counts of misappropriation for dishonesty applying monies belonging to the state to his own use. He pleaded not guilty to both charges and a trial was conducetd in February last year.

The first charge alleged that between Jan 29, 2009 and Jan 30, 2010 in the National Capital District and in the East New Britain province, Wartoto dishonestly applied to his own use and the use of others K6,445,262.69. He was convicted for this charge. 

The second charge alleged that between Oct 14, 2009 and Jan 30, 2010, in Port Moresby, Kokopo and Rabaul, Wartoto dishonestly applied to his own use and to the use of others K1,197,483.80.

On 29 March, the court found Wartoto guilty of the first misappropriation count but not guilty of the second count because the court was of the view that he did not have “criminal intentions”.

In 2008 Kerevat National High school was in a bad state and in dire need of repair of its dormitories, ablution blocks, water and sewerage.

In Nov 2008, SWT was awarded a contract of K7.9m for the work.

Two phases of payments was done to SWT, the company belonging to Wartoto.

An advance payment of K6,445,262.69 was made even before any work had started on the ground. This was because the company needed equipment and materials to start the work.

After this payment was made, no work was done to improve the water and sewerage situation and the court found him guilty for this.

The second payment of  K1,197,483.80 was also made to SWT 10 months after work began even before a certification of completion was given. For this payment, he was found not guilty by the court.

(Loop PNG file picture)

Sally Pokiton