Koror, Palau – On Wednesday, April 7, 2021, Presiding Justice Kathleen M. Salii of the Palau Supreme Court Trial Division sentenced former Angaur State Governor Marvin Ngirutang in Criminal Case No. 20-265 in accordance with a plea agreement submitted on April 6th by the parties. The criminal case concerned misuse of funds that were appropriated by the OEK for the Regina IV repair project as well as other unjustified uses of government funds.
The plea and sentencing marks the conclusion of a case involving a joint investigation into the Regina IV project by the Office of the Public Auditor (OPA) and the Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP). The Olbiil Era Kelulau called upon these two offices to investigate the handling of the Regina IV boat repair and renovation, which spanned several state government administrations and was marred by delays and various mechanical setbacks.
As admitted in the plea agreement and his in-court comments, Mr. Ngirutang’s misuse of Regina IV funds consisted of theft of property or services through unjustified expenditures of state funds for travel without proper documentation violating the national travel policy adopted by Angaur State. In addition, Mr. Ngirutang took multiple flights to Taiwan using Regina IV funds to cover personal travel without any proof of travel for government business. State funds were also used for meals and other smaller purchases without proof of a justified government or public purpose.
The Defendant pled guilty to the lesser included offense of Theft in the Third Degree on both Counts 1 and 3, and guilty as charged to the Ethics violation of Count 5. In return for his pleas to Counts 1, 3, and 5 (all misdemeanors), the Defendant agreed to make full restitution on all counts, 1 through 7, to Angaur State within the next 11 months in the total amount of $72,905.53. Defendant will also complete a total of 629 hours of community service to be conducted at and supervised by the Ministry of State. The Court imposed one year of incarceration, all suspended on condition Defendant successfully complete one year of probation including full restitution and completion of his community service hours. In addition, the Defendant will not engage in any paid government position within the Republic of Palau, State or National, during the time he is on probation. Counts 2, 4, 6 and 7 were dismissed by the Court in accordance with the plea agreement.
The Special Prosecutor explained to the Court that she was prepared to go forward and prove each and every charge filed in the Information involving four felonies and three misdemeanors. However, after meeting with the Defendant on multiple occasions, she was compelled by the Defendant’s sincerity and desire to make Angaur State whole regarding the full felony amount of restitution, and by his clear remorse for his actions that the Defendant stated caused embarrassment and hardship for the citizens of Angaur State and his family. Moreover, the SP listened to numerous people who spoke up on the Defendant’s behalf, both in an out of government, voicing their belief in the Defendant and his ability to be a force of good for the Republic of Palau if given a second chance. Therefore, the SP requested that the Court accept the plea agreement as being in the best interests of the Republic of Palau.
The Defendant also addressed the Court, detailing that his own negligent actions caused the current situation in which he found himself. While accepting responsibility, Mr. Ngirutang presented a moving apology to the Court and the Republic of Palau. On his own volition, Mr. Ngirutang will also be making an in-person apology to the citizens of Angaur.
Upon listening to the comments of both parties, Presiding Justice Salii stated that this was indeed a learning experience for Mr. Ngirutang, especially noting his heartfelt and genuine plea made in open court. Thereafter, the Court pronounced sentence in accordance with the accepted plea agreement and will be reducing the sentence to writing.
After all is said and done, the OSP believes this sentence is both just and fair under the circumstances, and the proper resolution of the case for the citizens of Angaur and the Republic of Palau.