International State Crime Initiative
A British based human rights research centre, the International State Crime Initiative, has raised concerns over the contradictory state-corporate response to the recent demolition exercise at Paga Hill.
The exercise left hundreds homeless, in addition to destroying WWII relics and a Seven-day Adventist Church.
It took place amidst multiple disputes over land at Paga Hill, an area which is currently earmarked for a ring road, in addition to a luxury real-estate project spearheaded by the Paga Hill Development Company.
ISCI researcher, Dr Kristian Lasslett, notes ‘this egregious demolition exercise appears to be something of an orphan. Governor Parkop has eschewed responsibility for the destruction, while the Paga Hill ring road contractor, Curtain Brothers, also denies involvement. So who then is responsible for vandalising priceless historical artefacts and destroying family homes?’
ISCI notes matters get even more confusing when attention is drawn to the legal status of the land on which the demolition took place.
‘For years the community at Paga Hill has contested an eviction order obtained by the Paga Hill Development Company. Those families living in lower Paga argue that their homes lie on reclaimed land outside the developer’s state lease. On the first of July this year, the Supreme Court made an order supporting the community’s argument’.
However, according to Dr Lasslett, ‘back in 2013 it appears that this reclaimed land was somehow surveyed and registered as Portion 3149 in Survey Plan Cat No.49/3107. Then in January this year the Land Board recommended that a Special Purpose Lease over the disputed land be awarded to Andayap No.5 Limited, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Paga Hill Development Company. This arrangement was formalised in a gazettal notice dated the 4th of June 2014’.
ISCI questions why the Supreme Court was not alerted to this arrangement given its direct relevance to the community’s appeal.
‘Even when responding to the 1st of July Supreme Court decision, PHDC failed to mention that it had acquired title over the reclaimed land’, Dr Lasslett observes.
‘Instead, we were lead to believe that only the NCDC and Curtain Brothers had a tangible interest. The community at Paga Hill are devastated. They can’t understand how land the subject of a Supreme Court hearing, could be leased out by the government to the respondent in the case, without the appellant being alerted’.
Dr Lasslett adds, ‘we note that the Paga Hill Development Company has condemned both the NCDC and Curtain Brothers for organising the demolition exercise. Yet the company has not explained how this demolition could occur on land it owns, without PHDC’s knowledge, nor have they denied organising an identical style demolition on the exact same portion of land – which at that stage they did not own – in May 2012. Their chutzpah is extraordinary’.
According to the NCDC some of those left homeless by the most recent exercise have been relocated to a small plot of state land at Gerehu Stage 6. One relocated resident informed ISCI, ‘its not OK, no toilets, no power, no water, no houses and it’s not safe’.
Dr Lasslett notes, ‘some families have been abruptly shunted off to land at 6-Mile and Gerehu by PHDC and the NCDC respectively, with promises of security. Yet it appears they have no enforceable tenure rights to either plot of land, and now live in a terminal state of uncertainty, without anything resembling adequate housing’.
Appendices – Documents Relating to Supreme Court action and land Portion 3149
By Radio Australia PNG correspondent Liam Cochrane
Police in Papua New Guinea have charged lawyer Paul Paraka with an additional 32 corruption-related offences, bringing the total alleged fraud to more than $AU100 million.
Anti-corruption investigators allege the PNG Government paid millions of dollars to Paul Paraka Lawyers for inflated or invented legal cases.
Mr Paraka was arrested last year over 18 alleged offences and now police have added another 32 charges of conspiracy to defraud, money laundering and misappropriation.
The total amount allegedly defrauded by Paul Paraka is around $AU102 million.
The case has embroiled PNG’s Prime Minister Peter O’Neill, who is alleged to have authorised some of the payments.
An arrest warrant has been issued for Mr O’Neill.
PNG’s Police Commissioner Geoffrey Vaki is refusing to enforce the arrest, sparking multiple legal challenges and a split within the police force
Paul Paraka was arrested and charged this afternoon [Friday] by the Fraud and Anti-Corruption unit.
His arrest is in relation to fraudulent payments made to his law firm. His law firm received 162 million kina through fraudulent means.
He was arrested and charged with stealing by false pretense, conspiracy to defraud the state, money laundering and misappropriation of public funds.
He has been brought to the Boroko Police Station and will be released on bail.
Mr. Paraka will appear at the Committal Court in Waigani on Monday.
Director Fraud and Anti-Corruption Mathew Damaru told the media there are more people expected to be arrested and charged.
Whilst the legitimacy of the Task Force Sweep team is before the courts, arrests related to ongoing investigations into the Paraka saga, are continuing.
Mister Damaru said more arrests will be made in coming weeks.
Following the recent drama over the arrest warrant against the prime minister, the court-reinstatement of Task Force Sweep has not deterred, what has been described, as the wheels of justice turning.
International State Crime Initiative
British human rights research centre, the International State Crime Initiative, has condemned the demolition exercise at Paga Hill on Tuesday.
According to local residents over twenty homes were destroyed, leaving hundreds homeless, in a demolition exercise that was organised by the National Capital Distinct Commission (NCDC), with the aid of heavily armed police officers.
Also demolished during the exercise was a Seven Day Adventist Church, and historic WWII relics.
‘It is extraordinary, these people have endured so much, they have been bashed, terrorised, and intimidated by police, over a period of two years, now this’, ISCI’s Dr Kristian Lasslett observes.
‘This demolition is in clear violation of the UN guidance on development induced evictions and deserves to be condemned as such’.
Dr Lasslett also notes:
‘on the 2nd of July Paga Hill residents won their appeal in the Supreme Court, declaring they were exempt from an eviction order obtained by the Paga Hill Development Company. At the moment it is entirely unclear what legal authority the NCDC were acting under and whether it is in contravention of the Supreme Court order – but what we do know is that residents took every step to alert the NCDC and police to the Supreme Court order’.
Dr Lasslett continues:
‘at the very minimum the community would require 45 days notice, and a relocation strategy that clearly meets a number of basic human rights standards. And, of course, then there is the issue of the sacred cultural site and historical artefacts, which were destroyed during Tuesday’s demolition exercise’.
Dr Lasslett adds:
‘it shouldn’t be forgotten that the NCDC has conducted this demolition only after the community’s leader, Joe Moses, was forced into hiding when NCD police launched a man hunt against him, under what appears to be spurious charges’.
In response to the demolition, the International State Crime Initiative has produced an open letter signed by leading global human rights scholars, and PNG NGOs, calling on the national government to launch an independent inquiry into the Paga Hill episode.
The letter also raises questions over the current luxury real estate project being developed by the Paga Hill Development Company (PHDC). It notes:
‘PHDC’s CEO, Gudmundur Fridriksson, has run companies censured in four major government investigations in Papua New Guinea, which are catalogued in two Auditor General’s Office reports and four Public Accounts Committee reports. Allegations include obtaining illegal consultancy contracts, corruption, the wrongful certifying of government payments, unaccounted funds, and excessive fees, which have evidently netted the companies concerned many millions of Kina’.
According to Dr Lasslett, ‘the case of Paga Hill is emblematic of a broader trend, where local communities are facing forced evictions, implemented through violence, by actors whom have often obtained the land through land transactions with a question mark over them’.
In compliance with court orders issued in May the Department of Lands has cancelled the SABL titles over portions 113C and 143C in Collingwood Bay, Oro Province.
This follows a successful legal battle by the customary landowners with the substantial support and backing of their Governor, Gary Juffa.
The cancellation of both the Head Title and the sub-leases have been registered by the Registrar of Titles, effective 7 July, 2014.
This means the lease titles held by Ang Agro and its company cohorts including KLK are null and void and these companies no longer have any legal justification to remain in Collingwood Bay.
Local landowners say they expect the companies to immediately move on and out of their territory as the people of Collingwood Bay and the Courts in PNG have spoken.
The Okena-Goto-Karata Portion in Tufi and Musa-Pongani have also been declared null and void and duly cancelled by the State. This means those companies claiming to be holding legitimate leases should be made aware they are no longer welcome into these areas.
The United Church is also claiming the Utan Lease that they hold has been illegally claimed by these same rogue companies.
In what seems a relentless cycle of resource companies lining up to take a bite out of Bougainville, on Monday Nevis Capital Corporation purchased a 50% stake in Tall J (PNG) Ltd (see the announcement below).
Tall J, is currently owned by Stephen Strauss, whose was the subject of a expose published via the MicroKhan blog in 2011, which includes a detailed response from Strauss himself (see below).
According to the company press release Tall J has rights to pristine Bougainville forest with timber valued at $1.3 billion, in addition to mineral exploration rights over 255,000 acres of land.
So what do we know about this company who has evidently purchased a large chunk of Bougainville? Not much. It has one subsidiary, registered in, gulp, Costa Rica, which focuses on the online gaming industry. From one swindling industry to another, it would seem.
And the company’s website hardly inspires confidence, either. http://www.neviscapcorp.com/
But as long as government economic policy hinges on the mirage of resource fuelled riches, companies like these will come sniffing for a quick buck; because like at the casino, the house always wins!
Nevis Announces Investment In Bougainville Development, LLC
July 21, 2014
Nevis Capital Corporation (OTC: OCEE), is pleased to announce that they have signed a final agreement with Bougainville Development, LLC, a Mississippi Limited Liability Company, to acquire a 50% ownership of Bougainville Development in an all stock transaction consisting of Nevis common stock. The principal asset of Bougainville is a wholly owned subsidiary, Tall J (PNG) Ltd. of Papua, New Guinea, that has the contractual rights with the Papua Government to harvest the timber and to explore and develop the underlying minerals on 255,000 acres in Section 1645. Bougainville has a current investment in excess of $4,000,000 USD in this project. Mr. Stephen Strauss, BD Director, estimates that production should commence within 12-15 months for delivery of finished materials to Asian markets. Surveys from ITTO estimate that this tract contains approximately 2.5 million cubic meters of timber valued at $1.3 Billion at current prices, generating estimated revenues of $37 Million annually over a 35 year production and reforestation cycle. The Papua Government has endorsed the economic growth and development of their natural resources. Exxon Mobil has recently invested $19 Billion in Papua, NG, building one of the largest Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) projects in the world which began shipments in May with anticipated annual revenues of $7.2 billion. Nevis Capital expects the operational profits from this investment, the previously announced US producing oil and gas investment and expansions thereof, the Macau Live Online Gaming investment, and initiatives to acquire interests in profitable Medical Marijuana ancillary product producers to rapidly increase shareholder value for this development stage holding company.
Brendan Koerner – MicroKhan Blog, 8 July 2011
Okay, then, so what is the Tall J Foundation? Records are spotty, indeed—I couldn’t find a corporate listing in the United States. This forum post from 2010 suggests that Tall J has been soliciting investors for some time now, with a fantastic promise of 500 percent returns. If the poster is to be believed, the company’s director is one Stephen M. Strauss, with addresses in both Texas and Olive Branch, Mississippi. I got another pop on that exact name through a recent SEC case, in which a Stephen M. Strauss stands accused of orchestrating a pump-and-dump stock scheme while head of the Chilmark Entertainment Group.
Coincidence? Well, Chilmark was headquartered in Southhaven, Miss., just a stone’s throw from Olive Branch, so I’m thinking the answer is “no.”
The only other easily accessible trace of Tall J is this LinkedIn listing for one James Blackmore. But I can find no connection between Blackmore and Strauss—at least not yet.
The bottom line is that it seems that a tiny, shady-seeming investment concern actually appears to be wreaking genuine havoc on the Bougainville peace process. That immediately made me think of such infamous 19th-century filibusters as William Walker, who fomented great chaos in Latin America in the service of making fortunes. This is why private interests really shouldn’t be permitted to assume roles that might destabilize shaky governments; corporate self-interest is typically more at odds with international order than diplomatic self-interest.
It is now 392 days since Prime Minister Peter O’Neill told that the SABL leases were unlawful and should be revoked.
It was on June 24, 2013 that he was given the reports of the SABL Commission Inquiry which detail the widespread fraud and mismanagement used by foreign logging companies to gain illegal access to over 5 million hectares of land.
But we are still waiting for the leases to be cancelled and the logging stopped.
For 392 days O’Neill has failed to act on the Commission of Inquiry findings, failed to revoke the SABL leases and been complicit in the illegal logging of forest resources by foreign logging companies.
Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has aided and abetted the theft of logs worth hundreds of million of kina and the destruction of thousands of hectares of pristine forest.