Is this Justice? The case of Jimmy Maladina
In May last year the National Court found disgraced lawyer Jimmy Maladina guilty of misappropriating K2.65 million from the National Provident Fund.
Jimmy dodged at least one bullet. The Courts were only asked to consider charges relating to the NPF Tower fraud. Had they cast their eye over a certain Waigani land sale, documented by the NPF Commission of Inquiry, Mr Maladina may have felt the temperature rise.
Although at K2.65 million, the water was still hot.
Under the Criminal Code a maximum sentence of 7 is available for conspiracy and 10 years for misappropriation. Maladina was found guilty on both fronts.
Surprisingly, the Court set him free with a two-year good behaviour bond. His eight-year custodial sentence was suspended in its entirety.
Deputy Chief Justice Salika outlined his reasons:
‘I take into account these following factors that will enable me to exercise the Courts discretion in the way I will. They are:
- Full restitution over and above what the prisoner dishonestly obtained has been made by the prisoner.
- A civil action was taken against him by Nasfund wherein he was declared bankrupt and his properties in Australia sold for over AUD$500,000.00 which was given back to Nasfund.
- Nasfund is now in a better position than it was those 17 years ago. It and the contributors are now happy that they have got back what was stolen from them by Kumagai and the prisoner.
- The prisoner will no longer be able to practice law ever again and I think he is aware of that fact.
- His co-accused’s case has been permanently stayed by the National Court. Others involved in the case have never been charged, thus issue of where is fairness is asked.
- I am aware that he brought all these on himself and he has no one to blame; but he was now put right in full and over what he did wrong. He will still suffer in that he will have to find other ways to survive in this world as he will no longer practice law.
- There has been a long undue delay to have this matter tried, thus his constitutional right to a trial within a reasonable time denied. The State had the primary role to expedite his trial.
In the circumstances as pointed above I will exercise the courts discretion and suspend all the 8 years and place him on good behaviour bond for 2 years.’
This stands in marked contrast to the treatment dealt out to those found guilty of theft under the Criminal Code.
For those lacking a white collar, the punishments can be severe.
Take the hapless Mathias Watt, he broke into his brother in law’s business and stole K11,300.
The National Court declared ‘a strong deterrent sentence is necessary to punish the prisoner for his crime as a lesson to him and others with similar inclinations’. A four year custodial sentence was given.
So, Mathias steals K11,300 and receives four years hard labour. Jimmy ‘misappropriates’ K2.65 million and receives a good-behavior bond. Is this justice?