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Fraud dismissal against Cook Islands PM and PIF Secretary General may be appealed

Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown. Photo: Twitter

A dismissed fraud case against Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown and Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) Secretary-General Henry Puna could be brought back to life as the Citizens Against Corruption lawyers apply to appeal the matter.

Cook Islands News has reported that on March 19, Mr Brown and Mr Puna were acquitted of all charges of fraud and improper payment of public money in relation to the 2018 charter flights to Penrhyn and Pukapuka.

On July 6, the private prosecution team headed by Paul Allsworth of Citizens Against Corruption and represented by lawyer Norman George applied for appeal.

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “The application is still pending approval but is not sure if the matter will go ahead”.

Mr Allsworth and Mr George refused to comment on the matter.

“This trial was always going to be a difficult one and a massive undertaking for a number of reasons. This is the first private prosecution in the Cook Islands ever, that in itself, I believe, is an important milestone and sets a precedent for others who feel aggrieved,” Mr Allsworth said in March.

The Pacific Advocate contacted Mr Puna through the PIF, however, didn’t receive a response.

But after the March trial, Mr Brown said their names were dragged “through the mud.”

He said this was a “smear campaign” aimed at them and their families. “My wife and children have gone through difficult times,” he said.

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