O’Neill’s illegal logging: 665 days and counting…

April 20, 2015 Leave a comment

665

Peter O'Neill: Theft of forest resources: Guilty

billboard poster - give land back to landowners

cartoon showing Peter O'Neill being fed by Rimbunan Hijau while he sits on a pile of SABL reports

Bougainville’s Momis government rocked by another corruption scandal

April 20, 2015 1 comment

The Momis government has been plagued by serious allegations of high level corruption. Now it can be revealed that the President’s strategic planning head, Lauvatu Tautea, has been slammed by Taskforce Sweep for the alleged theft of K 7.5 million. Tautea has also been condemned by Prime Minister O’Neill for a separate alleged illicit payment, in the amount of K 10.9 million.

'Lauvatu Tautea meets with President Momis and his Australian advisor, Anthony Regan

Lauvatu Tautea meets with President Momis and his Australian advisor, Anthony Regan

According to Taskforce Sweep when Acting Chief Executive Officer of the Cocoa Board Tautea wrote a two page letter to the National Planning Secretary on 15 July 2010, using the Board’s letterhead. This was not a proper project proposal format. In this letter Tautea stated that the Cocoa Board was sponsoring the rehabilitation and development of the Banio Plantation* on Bougainville. He nominated Rait Fama Limited to manage the project on behalf of the Board. Taskforce Sweep notes that what Tautea neglected to mention is that he and his wife were both Directors and signatories of Rait Fama Limitied!

Within just four days the wrongful proposal was approved. According to Taskforce Sweep the payment was made illegally from vote items 4203-2202-225 (K5 million) and 4203-2213-225 (K2.5 million) earmarked for the construction and improvement of roads for the Bogia-Angoram Road and East New Britain Roads. The bank account of the company, Rait Fama Limited, was opened on the 16/07/2010 at the Bank of South Pacific in Port Moresby, the K7.5 million cheque was issued on 19/7/2010. Why the Bank of South Pacific did not raise the alarm is anyone’s guess.

According to Taskforce Sweep, the bank statements indicate that most of the funds were diverted for personal use with huge amounts made on a cash payment basis, with some funds being credited to personal accounts. Some of the funds, Sweep notes, were used to purchase motor vehicles from Ela Motors.

This is not the first time Tautea is alleged to have abused public funding for his personal benefit. According to the Post Courier, the National Planing Department gave K10.9 million to Teariki Holdings Limited, to “educate farmers” about pest threat.

In a familiar story, Teariki Holdings was incorporated on 10 August 2010.  The Post Courier states:

“The shareholders of the company are: Mr Lauatu Tautea (51), Nialapan Tautea (20), Pute Tautea (27) and Ruth Tautea (55). The directors are all of the above and Falope Tautea (22)”.

The paper goes on to note:

“according to the Registrar of Companies office, Teariki was incorporated on August 10, 2010 and several months later it was a lucky recipient of K10.9m”.

The then Treasurer, Peter O’Neill slammed the payment to Tautea’s company, stating

“I am appealing to all government agencies like the police fraud squad and the Ombudsman Commission to investigate and find out who authorised that payment I never authorised that payment”.

Despite the findings of Taskforce Sweep and the reporting of the Post Courier, Tautea was appointed head of Strategic Planning for Bougainville.

This news comes after the Momis government is reeling from other serious allegations of corruption. Earlier this year ex-combatants expressed concern over a K10 million payment made to a close friend of President Momis, Sir Henry Chow, via Chow’s company Hakau Investment Limited. The K10 million payment was evidently made to facilitate a feasibility study in 2010/11 of a proposed Torokina Oil Palm Plantation, despite strong local opposition. Given the lavish amount granted for a feasibility study, Bougainville’s Public Accounts Committee has earmarked this payment for investigation.

President Momis and his Natural Resource and Finance Ministers, were also found to be shareholders in Bougainville POGE Development Corporation. Controversially, POGE is a co-venture with a Filipino businessmen slammed in a range of human rights reports for land-grabbing, violence against landowners, illegal labour practices, and environment breaches.

There is also the question of the payments made to President Momis’ extensive team of foreign advisers, including his Development Advisor, Seagate Global. Seagate Global is a hedge fund, operated by US businessmen, William Lawton. While Seagate appear to have experience in financial trading, they have very little knowledge of rural development in Melanesia, which raises questions why they were appointed Momis’ ‘development advisor’.

As the scandals mount, it has to be questioned whether recent moves to unilaterally reopen the Panguna mine is motivated by a desire to develop Bougainville, as is publicly claimed, or is it instead a moved designed to generate a flow of revenues that will be captured by Bougainville’s political elite (at the expense of landowners!), to fund lavish lifestyles, holidays, cars, businesses and other luxuries. The record of the Momis government raises serious concerns in this respect.

*Note, there are allegations on New Dawn Radio that the Banio plantation was grabbed from traditional owners and sold off to the Queensland businessmen Geoffrey Mantle, who has close links to President Momis.

bougainville mantle

Paraka fails in latest bid to escape justice

April 17, 2015 Leave a comment

paraka

Paraka’s court bid dismissed

Post Courier

An application by controversial lawyer Paul Paraka to stop a series of criminal proceedings against him at the committal court was refused by the Waigani committal court yesterday.

Mr Paraka, who has been charged for defrauding the state of huge amounts of money and facing a series of counts of conspiracy, false pretence, misappropriation and money laundering, filed an application at the district court to stay the committal proceedings pending an appeal he is pursuing at the National Court to consolidate all the criminal proceedings against him.

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The Paraka Scams: Read the archives; Download the report

The application was filed pursuant to section 5, 9 and 32 of the District Court Act and seeking inherent powers of the District Court to stay the proceedings pending the determination of the National Court appeal.

Mr Paraka had submitted that the outcome of the National Court appeal would have direct effect on the committal court proceedings, and therefore those proceedings should be stayed pending the National Court appeal.

Senior committal court magistrate Cosmos Bidar, while making a ruling on the application, explained that the District Court does not have inherent powers and the clause relied on in the application was misconceived.

Magistrate Bidar explained that Section 155 of the Constitution only refers to inherent powers of the National and Supreme Courts and not the District Courts.

“Also in my view, the outcome of the appeal would not affect other cases…there is no appeal against any of the orders or rulings in relation to the current committal court cases.

“The appeal which is pending before the National Court would be either upheld or dismissed. Applications to consolidate all cases may go before another magistrate if the application is successful.

“Another thing is the question of whether the National Court has powers to consolidate the pending cases,” Mr Bidar said.

The magistrate therefore dismissed the application.

Compulsory purchase scandal: Firewall Logistics warned not to deal with land group

April 16, 2015 1 comment

The Department of Land has recently gazetted the compulsory purchase of 12.5 hectares of customary land known as Portion 2467C. The land lies between the Napanapa Oil Rifinery and the Exxon Mobil LNG plant just outside Port Moresby.

Gazette No.G146_4Mar15_p1According to the notice signed by Lands Secretary Romilly Kila Pat, the compulsory purchase was made “for the purpose of a contract of sale agreement between Ohobiduduare Land Group of Roka Village and Firewall Logistics”.

Yet, according to media reports, the Central Provincial Lands Court in a ruling on 2nd September 2014, declared the Kuriu Clan as the major landowning group of Portion 2467C. The Court also found the land had been illegally registered under a Special Agriculture and Business Lease (SABL) by the Ohobiduduare Property Development Company.

The Central Provincial Lands Court ordered a number of companies, including Firewall Logistics, to stop making payments to the Ohobiduduare Property Development Company as they were illegally occupying land which the Ohobiduduare did not own.

Despite these findings it appears the Ohobiduduare are still claiming ownership on Portion 2467C and it is on the basis of those claims that the compulsory purchase order has been made.

In its company literature Firewall Logistics make a big play of its understanding of the importance of customary land ownership and the connection of people to their land. Firewall claims it is “passionate about community inclusion” and states:

“Doing business in PNG requires a high degree of community involvement. Inclusion lies at the very core of our company DNA” which includes “demonstrating respect for the local landowners’ indisputable connection to their land”.

Time will surely reveal whether such commitments have been honored in the company’s acquisition of Portion 2467C. An acquisition made under the hand of Rimilly Kila Pat who has been linked to numerous unlawful and illegal land deals and was recommended for criminal prosecution for his role in the SABL land grab.

O’Neill’s illegal logging: 660 days and counting…

April 15, 2015 Leave a comment

660

There has still been NO ACTION to cancel the huge SABL land grab, revoke the unlawful leases or stop the illegal logging in Papua New Guinea.

It is now 660 days since Prime Minister Peter O’Neill was told that the SABL leases were unlawful and should be cancelled.

On June 24, 2013 O’Neill 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.

SIX60

O’Neill has REPEATEDLY STATED the leases will be canceled and illegal logging stopped.

In September 2013 O’Neill told Parliament:

“We will no longer watch on as foreign owned companies come in and con our landowners, chop down our forests and then take the proceeds offshore”

In June 2014, announcing an NEC decision cancelling the leases, O’Neill said

“We are taking these steps to reclaim our customary land illegally lost to foreigners with the help of corrupt public servants and leaders”

“As a responsible government we want to ensure that all citizens have access to the lands of their ancestors. We will not allow our land to be lost to unscrupulous people out to con our people” 

But, WE ARE STILL WAITING for the leases to be cancelled and the logging stopped.

Peter O'Neill: Theft of forest resources: Guilty

For 660 days O’Neill has failed to ensure the SABL leases are revoked and he has been complicit in the illegal logging of our forests by foreign logging companies.

Crucially he has failed to take any action to remove the corrupt public servants responsible for the land grab or distance himself from the politicians, including key Minister’s, complicit in the illegal deals and who are now blocking any positive action to revoke the leases and stop the logging.

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.

cartoon showing Peter O'Neill being fed by Rimbunan Hijau while he sits on a pile of SABL reports

Australian owned company beneficiary of compulsory purchase order

April 14, 2015 3 comments

The Department of Lands has used the compulsory purchase powers in the Lands Act to acquire a 12.5 hectare block of customary land outside Port Moresby and grant a 99-year lease to a company called Firewall Logistics – read more here.

Gazette No.G146_4Mar15_p1According to the Gazette Notice signed by Lands Secretary Romilly Kila Pat, the land was previously held under an SABL lease but has been compulsorily acquired to ‘guarantee security of tenure’. SABL leases have been exposed as a fraudulent and illegal land grab by a Commission of Inquiry.

Firewall Logistics describes itself as:

an experienced and skilled team of project management experts, anthropologists and mining, oil and gas exploration specialists

The company is owned by two Australians, Arthur Llewllyn Jones and Craig Douglas McConaghy. They are also the directors of the company, together with another Australian, Brendan Joseph Cannon,.

Although foreign owned, Firewall Logistics is listed with the Investment promotion Authority as a local PNG company.

dudley street

Cannon’s home in Brisbane was valued at $1.3 million back in 2010

Jones and McConaghy are listed as residents of Port Moresby and Goroka respectively, while Cannon lives in a million dollar house in the Brisbane suburb of Sherwood.

Despite acquiring the customary land through a compulsory acquisition process, Firewall insists on its website the company is “Passionate about community inclusion”

“Doing business in PNG requires a high degree of community involvement. Inclusion lies at the very core of our company DNA” which includes “demonstrating respect for the local landowners’ indisputable connection to their land”.

Kila Pat was identified in the SABL Commission of Inquiry as being the facilitator of numerous illegal and unlawful land deals and was recommended to be “held accountable for his unlawful conduct and actions”.

The government has still not taken any action over the unlawful SABL land grab; has not cancelled the illegal leases; has not stopped the illegal logging; and has not held any public servants accountable.

Compulsory purchase used to seize land and replace flawed SABL lease

April 13, 2015 6 comments

px-logo land grabbing

It seems the Department of Lands could be about to embark on a scheme to replace the now discredited and unlawful SABL leases with new land titles acquired using the compulsory acquisition powers in the Lands Act.

The SABL Commission of Inquiry has exposed how the Department of Lands fraudulently issued 99-year leases over large parcels of customary land totaling some 5.2 million hectares. The SABL leases were issued to foreign companies without following the mandated processes in the Lands Act and without the informed consent of customary landowners.

The Commission of Inquiry recommended the illegal leases be revoked but the government has failed to follow this advice. The only SABL leases that have been revoked are those that have been challenged through the courts and declared null and void by a judge. But the companies holding SABL leases remain nervous that their unlawfully acquired rights could be extinguished at some point in the future and are looking for ways to protect their positions. And its seems that once again, it could be the Department of Lands that comes to their assistance.

Gazette No.G146_4Mar15_p1The Department has recently used the compulsory purchase powers in the Lands Act to acquire Portion 2467C, a block of water front customary land outside Port Moresby that was previously subject to an SABL lease. The Department has issued a new 99 year lease over 12.5 hectares, now called Portion 2703C, to a company called Firewall Logistics. The compulsory acquisition was gazetted in a notice dated 4 March, 2015 (see below).

This appears to be an attempt to override any flaws in the original SABL lease and insure the company gets a defensible title to the land.

The compulsory purchase powers in the Lands Act are specifically supposed to be used only for public purposes such as acquiring land for schools, clinics or subsistence agriculture. To use those powers to benefit a private company seems to be a breach of the Lands Act and unlawful. But acting unlawfully is something that is very much the norm in the Lands Department.

The land that has been compulsorily acquired sits alongside two other land portions also subject to SABL leases and that were investigated by the Commission of Inquiry.

The CoI found Portions 2465C and 2466C were fraudulently obtained by the Kassman family under three SABL leases. The Commission concluded:

“There was misrepresentation and fraud involved in the whole process” [Report p164], and landowner signatures were forged in “a criminal act” [p150].

“The whole process was riddled with defects and flaws” [p157] and “it was obvious that officers from DLPP [including] Romily Kila-Pat deliberately decided to ignore and by-pass the existing protocols and practices” [p153].

The CoI recommended:

“those responsible must be held accountable for their unlawful conduct and actions” [p165]

Of course nobody has been held accountable, and ironically Romilly Kila Pat (despite his numerous crimes) is still Secretary for the Department of Lands and, as the delegate of the Minister, issued the notice of Compulsory Acquisition for the new lease.

Gazette No.G146_4Mar15_p1

Gazette No.G146_4Mar15_p2

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