The defence counsel for suspended Solomon Islands Attorney-General Julian Moti have broken their silence, telling Crikey that their client is willing to return to Australia to face child s-x charges voluntarily, subject to certain conditions.
Moti’s defence lawyers recently approached the Attorney-General’s Department and Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions with an offer of voluntary return on the condition that his Australian passport is handed back and bail not opposed.
According to one of his lawyers, the approach was made “very recently”, first orally and then in writing, but was knocked back. “There was no preparedness to negotiate by the Australian Government”, the lawyer said.
The Attorney-General’s Department would not confirm the approach. However, a spokesperson said that an announcement would be made in relation to the case in the next day or two.
It’s expected the Department will announce it is commencing extradition proceedings. Moti’s lawyer said the Attorney-General would likely seek a warrant to extradite Moti from the Brisbane Magistrate’s Court.
Australia’s first attempt to extradite Moti, while he was on stopover in PNG, failed when he was smuggled out of the country on a clandestine PNG Defence Force plane. Last week, in what was reported as a significant about-face on the issue, PNG Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare suspended three officials over their role in Moti’s escape.
Meanwhile, significant questions remain about the timing of the investigation into the Moti affair, which appears coincidental at the least. Justice Minister Chris Ellison has denied allegations the decision to investigate Moti on charges that have already been dismissed by a Vanuatu court was politically motivated.
“The investigation into the allegations against Mr Moti commenced in early 2005, which was when the AFP first received a referral in this matter, well before Mr Moti’s appointment as the Solomon Islands Attorney-General was announced,” he said. However, Moti was in fact also nominated to the post in 2005, when Sir Allan Kemakeza’s government was in power.
Opposition Spokesman for the Pacific, Bob Sercombe, who recently travelled to Honiara to urge Moti’s lawyers to seek a resolution to the case, acknowledges that many questions remain as to whether the investigation was politically motivated.
Get Crikey FREE to your inbox every weekday morning with the Crikey Worm.
“I know that people have that suspicion,” Sercombe told Crikey. “There is a recognition that [Moti] has been in and out of the Australia during the last few years [during which time an arrest could have been made] and that this is odd timing.”
“But I don’t have any reliable information to that effect,” he said. Moti is currently in Honiara, awaiting trial on passport and immigration charges.