Koror, Palau – Former Ngiwal Governor Ellender Ngirameketii appealed his earlier convictions by Presiding Justice Kathleen M. Salii on six counts of Misconduct in Public Office by committing unsworn falsification to authorities, six counts of Ethics violations by failing to report his true income, and six counts of failing to make social security contributions on behalf of his employees. The appeal was filed in October of last year and oral arguments took place on April 8, 2022 before the Appellate Division of the Palau Supreme Court. Today the Appellate Division held that that the Trial Division correctly found Ngirameketii guilty on all counts of conviction. However, the Appellate Division found the Trial Court’s fines were excessive and ordered the case to be resentenced by the Trial Division.
Writing for the unanimous Appellate Division panel, Justice Kevin Bennardo held the Special Prosecutor has the power to issue subpoenas after obtaining a finding of probable cause by the Trial Division. This holding affirms that the Special Prosecutor Act grants the Special Prosecutor this important investigatory power. The Appellate Division panel also found that the OSP did not infringe on Defendant Ngirameketii’s constitutional rights and rejected all nine of Ngirameketii’s claims of error on appeal. However, on the tenth point of appeal, the Appellate Court vacated the sentencing order of the Trial Division and remanded the case for resentencing, finding the fines on the Ethics violations to be excessive in light of the severity of those counts.
The Trial Division’s original sentence of $668,658 was far less than the maximum fine allowable under the statute that states for “violations of the reporting requirements, a fine of up to three (3) times the amount the person failed to report properly may be imposed for conviction of each violation.” However, the Appellate Division found that the fines in this case were excessive even though they were only one-sixth of the maximum fine authorized by Palau’s Congress. The Appellate Division remanded the case with instruction “to impose a fine of note greater than $25,000 per count for the Code of Ethics convictions, leaving the Trial Division “free to adjust other aspects of Ngirameketii’s sentences.”
The Trial Division will now schedule the consolidated cases for resentencing. A copy of the Appellate Division decision may be found on the Palau Supreme Court website under Ellender Ngirameketii v. Republic of Palau, 2022 Palau 9, and will be posted on the OSP website at www.palauosp.org.
April Dawn Cripps, Special Prosecutor for the Republic of Palau, made the announcement.
Related documents available for download: