In Papua New Guinea, investigators say they’ve uncovered a racket involving lawyers, bureaucrats and politicians colluding to defraud the state of hundreds of millions of dollars.
Source: ABC Radio Australia
The claim comes after the principal of one of PNG’s biggest law firms was arrested over allegations he was paid by the Finance Department after submitting fraudulent legal bills.
Presenter: PNG correspondent Liam Fox
He’s the principal of Paul Paraka Lawyers, a law firm with 20 offices around the country and more than a thousand employees.
On Wednesday officers from the multi-agency corruption investigation Taskforce Sweep arrested him in a small village two hours drive from Port Moresby.
Mr Paraka was charged with 18 offences including conspiracy to defraud, stealing by false pretence and money laundering.
Taskforce Sweep alleges his law firm was paid around 30-million dollars by the Department of Finance last year after submitting fraudulent bills for legal work performed for the state.
It says the bills submitted by Paul Paraka Lawyers were for cases that were not briefed out to the firm and others that simply don’t exist.
During an address to his staff Mr Paraka said the charges are politically motivated and he’s innocent.
But Taskforce Sweep says it’s only getting started.
Its chairman Sam Koim alleges Paul Paraka Lawyers has been paid more than 100-million dollars by the Department of Finance since 2007.
In a statement Mr Koim says his investigators have uncovered a racket of lawyers, politicians, bureaucrats, court officials, financial institutions and media organisations all colluding to pillage public coffers.
He says many heads will roll as more suspects are identified.
The Finance Minister James Marape says the Taskforce’s investigation has shown how large sums of public money can be paid out without the Minister’s approval.
But it’s one thing to arrest someone and lay charges, another to convict him.
The wheels of justice turn pretty slowly in Papua New Guinea and it’ll be some time before Paul Paraka stands trial.
Source: ROWAN CALLICK in THE AUSTRALIAN
PAUL Paraka, the richest, most powerful lawyer in Papua New Guinea, has been arrested in a dawn raid at a village near the capital Port Moresby over $28.7 million his firm is alleged to have received from the government’s Finance Department.
The principal of the country’s largest law firm, which has 22 branches, has been charged with 18 counts, including conspiracy to defraud, stealing by false pretence, money laundering and misappropriation.
The firm earlier filed a motion seeking a series of interlocutory injunctions to stop the government’s anti-corruption Taskforce Sweep from investigating it, and to stop police executing an arrest warrant on Mr Paraka.
The lawyer claimed, among other matters, that Taskforce Sweep was operating in an unconstitutional manner. The National Court initially granted a temporary restraining order over the warrant, but eventually rejected Mr Paraka’s application, and the Supreme Court, with Chief Justice Salamo Injia presiding, last Friday turned down the ensuing appeal.
Mr Paraka told reporters outside police fraud squad headquarters on Wednesday that he was innocent, would continue to fight all charges through the courts, and was simply being paid for government work.
Prime Minister Peter O’Neill said this week the government would not stand in the way of Taskforce Sweep, which targets administrative corruption.
An 811-page inquiry conducted for parliament three years ago by PNG judges Cathy Davani and Maurice Sheehan, originally from New Zealand, and prominent business leader Don Manoa, revealed a $300m scam perpetrated by top officials and leading lawyers.
But the report was injuncted at a court hearing in remote Alotau through the law firm of Mr Paraka, who is named throughout the document. Neither the parliament nor the two governments since then have pressed for its removal.
The report, as revealed exclusively in The Australian, lists a large number of bogus compensation claims made by and settled within the senior bureaucracy, with the involvement of private lawyers.
Mr O’Neill said in May he had issued a directive that the government should “act swiftly” to pursue “massive payments in millions of kina made to law firms, companies and individuals for legal fees and out-of-court settlements” by the Department of Finance. “If I have to sack everyone including the tea boy at Finance, I will do so to clear the place up,” he said.
Attorney-General Kerenga Kua told a seminar last month lawyers were using their skills and education to rip off PNG.
Source: Post Courier
Prominent lawyer Paul Paraka has been arrested and charged by police and the Task Force Sweep yesterday over fraud allegations.
The principal of one of the country’s most prominent law firms, Paul Paraka Lawyers, which consists of 22 established branches around the country, was charged for multiple counts of fraud following months of investigations by Task Force Sweep.
The investigations were conducted into the law firm upon directions by Prime Minister Peter O’Neill on May 13 this year.
Mr Paraka was interviewed and charged with a total of 18 counts relating to an amount of K71.8 million.
He was charged with five counts of conspiracy to defraud under section 407(1)(b) of the Criminal Code Act, nine courts of stealing by false pretence under section 404(1)(a), two counts of money laundering under section 34(2)(a) and two counts of misappropriation under section 383(1)(a) of the Criminal Code Act.
Police said Mr Paraka was arrested in a dawn raid at Gavuone village, Kupiano, Central Province (about two and half hours drive from Port Moresby.)
MR PARAKA, who police believed has been in hiding after failing to obtain a stay order in court, gave in when police closed in on him yesterday morning.
It was alleged that Mr Paraka dishonestly obtained monies that he did not deserve, according to a statement by Task-Force Sweep.
Task Force Sweep alleges that when the law firm retainer agreement with the State was terminated on 2 November 20, 2006, the law firm instituted two separate judicial review proceedings.
Mr Paraka in those two proceedings, obtained orders for payment of outstanding bills totalling approximately K12.9 million. The State appealed those decisions and obtained stay orders from the
Supreme Court in November 2006 and early 2007, which effectively prevented any payment to the law firm.
It was alleged that despite the existence of the Supreme Court orders, the law firm still collected payments from the Finance Department but through other law firms and its nominee company, namely PKP Nominees Ltd.
It was further alleged that Mr Paraka did so to avoid the legal implications of the Supreme Court orders.
After he was interviewed at the National Fraud and Anti-Corruption Directorate at Konedobu and was formally charged, Paraka was taken to the Boroko police station cells to be detained. It is understood police refused bail.
Paraka: Arrest is political
Source: Post Courier
Prominent lawyer Paul Paraka says his arrest was politically motivated and he will fight it tooth and nail in court.
The owner of one of the biggest law firm in the country told journalists following his arrest yesterday that the allegations brought against him were the work of politicians with vested interests who were using police to arrest him.
He said his conscience was clear and he had nothing to hide, vowing to protect his reputation and integrity in court.
He said his arrest was regrettable as he had court proceedings on foot before the Supreme Court that could have assisted police investigations administratively and not through the criminal process.
“I will present my case in court and have my say, now that the criminal process is in motion,” Paraka said.
“There is nothing sinister about the payments made to my law firm for services rendered to the State.
“A law firm with operations covering the entire nation would naturally have huge operational costs.
Likewise individual legal bills for about 100 plus lawyers over the years would be equally high as well.
“Our bills are no exceptions. And because the State could not pay us out in full, we invoiced the State and received payments in installments when funds became available.’’
He also brushed aside assertions that he had been in hiding or evading police arrest and said that he had only wanted to stall police investigations and subsequently defer his arrest to give the courts time to determine the substantive proceedings he had filed.
Mr Paraka said he would exhaust every available avenue to safeguard and protect his reputation and integrity which he has built over the past 20 years.
He said the string of court actions he had filed related to the protection of his constitutional rights and was not about having the “same case to all the courts” as described in recent media reports.
“It is about my reputation and integrity that I have built over a period of 20 years as a lawyer and businessman. It is about the livelihood and the daily upkeep of about a thousand employees and their families nationwide. It is about the survival of a nationally-owned institution called Paul Paraka Lawyers,” he said.
From ABC news
A lawyer at the centre of an investigation involving suspect payments to him by the Papua New Guinea government has been arrested by police.
Lawyer Paul Paraka was arrested in the early hours of Wednesday morning and taken to the fraud squad office in Port Moresby.
Radio Australia’s reporter Firmin Nanol says Mr Paraka was questioned over his law firm allegedly receiving payments of more than $AUS30 million from PNG’s finance department.
The allegations suggest the government was involved in engaging the law firm and making payments with no formal agreement and without going through proper channels.
Mr Paraka has been charged with a crime, but details were not immediately available.
He told reporters he will fight the charge in court and that he was simply being paid for government work.
He says the police are just doing their job but they are being used, and the matter has been politicised.
On the floor of parliament, opposition leader Beldan Namah has tabled a letter allegedly signed by Prime Minister Peter O’Neill authorising the payment.
Mr Namah says there is no agreement from the Office of the Attorney-General which gives legal advice to the government on any government contract or legal matter.
Prime Minister O’Neill told the media this week that the government will not stop, suppress or intimidate the work of the anti-corruption Investigation Task Force Sweep and the police.
He claims any signature on paperwork tabled by Mr Namah is a forgery.
Court throws out law firm’s appeal
From the Post Courier
A Supreme Court appeal by Paul Paraka Lawyers against a decision of the National Court was thrown out last Friday.
The Supreme Court, presided over by Chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia, was not persuaded by the grounds raised in the application and therefore refused to grant the appeal.
The appeal stemmed from a National Court proceeding where the law firm had filed a motion seeking several interlocutory injunctions to temporarily stop the Task Force Sweep team from continuing investigations into the law firm until the substantive issue was determined by the court.
However, the National Court refused to grant the application after it found that the firm had also filed a similar application at the Supreme Court, which amounted to an abuse of court processes.
The law firm had questioned the operation of Task Force Sweep and argued that the operation of Task Force Sweep under its chairman Sam Koim was illegal and unconstitutional.
The firm also argued that Mr Koim, who is a lawyer by profession, had assumed the role of police and that was unconstitutional and in breach of the Police Act.
However, Mr Koim through his lawyers had argued that Task Force Sweep was a multi organisation agency which was set up by the National Executive Council to investigate corruption in the country.
The team consists of professionals from various government departments including police, who assist the task force with its investigations, Mr Koim said.
Law firm fails to stop arrest
A prominent law firm made another attempt yesterday at the Waigani District Court to seek an order to restrain police from executing a warrant of arrest issued by the district court earlier.
In a statement, the Investigation Task Force Sweep (ITFS) said despite a National Court ruling on Monday dismissing an application by Paul Paraka Lawyers for a restraining order from being searched by police, his lawyer Martin Kombri made another attempt at the district court yesterday.
The district court has reserved a decision to Friday, but the presiding magistrate told the court that this does not stop the principal of the law firm from being arrested.
The statement said the law firm was the subject of investigations by Task Force Sweep following alleged fraudulent payments made to the firm by the Finance Department on behalf of the state.
The statement said several lawyers from various law firms who have colluded with the law firm to solicit funds from the Finance Department have already been arrested and charged while others were yet to be arrested pending the outcome of this case.
The statement said attempts made by Task Force Sweep to have the principal of the law firm arrested and charged have come to a stop after he obtained an order which was dismissed by the National Court on Monday.
Mr Kombri argued that police did not need a warrant to arrest his client, hence the granting of warrant was an abuse of process.
Police prosecutor Michael Awagl admitted that police do not necessarily need a warrant to arrest. But the law firm’s principal has evaded arrest, hence an application was made under section 8 of the Arrest Act and Mr Kombri’s application was misconceived, the statement said.
The statement from Task Force Sweep said the magistrate adjourned his ruling to Friday 9:30am but said with or without a warrant, police would still arrest the principal of the law firm unless the law proved otherwise.
By Unitech Students Against Corruption
The Baloiloi regime was in power at Unitech for many years. The regime was commonly considered corrupt and dictatorial. At a time when the university was slowly falling apart there were many rumours of misuse of funds and coverup. Those who lived at the university a long time told stories that Unitech student government was corrupt too.
It was so refreshing for those who came to unigate as fresh new minds in 2012 to see change. The regime changed from Baloiloi to Schram. Albert Schram was a European who did things opposite from Baloiloi. Schram was open and grassroots. Also seemed fair and honest.
When the new vc got on the wrong side of the previous regime, students rescued him. We were led by very committed SRC president Joe Kaowai. Joe did not pause when students had to stand up and defend the new vc against the old regime led by chancellor Phillip Stagg. Students burnt Stagg’s vehicle after he tried to sack Schram. Our actions won some time for the new vc and kept them at a distance for awhile.
However now the Stagg group seems to have the upper hand against vc Schram. The victorious in this game are not the innocent it seems. After Albert Schram went overseas for holidays late last year, he was banned from coming back to PNG. He still cannot come back. No one knows why and the government is not telling.
Under new president Livingstone Hosea, it seemed that we students would keep fighting to bring back Schram at the beginning of 2013. For awhile president Livingstone inspired us with quotations from world leaders who had stood up for what was right. We all seemed to be of one mind to do whatever had to be done to get Schram back.
Then things went wrong. First our boycott was called off by president Hosea after only 10 days with nothing accomplished. Livingstone argued that he did not sell out to someone to suddenly end the boycott but he could not explain clearly why the boycott should end. His decision to end the boycott was made without allowing debate. The decision went against the views of most students at that time. What was very strange is that Livingstone Hosea changed from urging us to boycott in the name of personal sacrifice on behalf of PNG to saying the opposite. Now he was saying that our studies were the most important, not sacrificing for Unitech’s future and the future of our country. Before he said we should speak out against the government, now he said we had to let the government make the decision regarding vc Schram. Something smelled fishy.
As months went by, Livingstone’s defence became less convincing. People asked him to fully explain his reasons for ending the boycott. He never responded in an open and complete way. Recently he began talking loudly against Albert Schram, the vc he was strongly promoting only months before. Students during the recent SRC campaign were passing out leaflets that talked about the same principles that Livingstone had promoted the previous year. When he saw them he got angry. He told his helpers to tear down them down. Information that was promoting fair and honest election Livingstone Hosea was now trying to keep students from seeing.
At the moment even Livingstone’s best friends of the past have mostly stopped supporting him although they are still friends. Livingstone was no longer was preaching the principles they believed in and what attracted them to him. It was becoming obvious that Livingstone was a kind of fraud. Livingstone totally lost the Engan support he once enjoyed. This is especially surprising because we Engans used to support him very strongly. There is now open criticism and disgust.
Last week there was student government elections for next year’s officers. Livingstone Hosea is mixed race Enga-Sepik. The new president is his relative from the Sepik side. His name is Eddie Nagual. It seemed that Eddie won so that the Livingstone Hosea monarchy would continue.
During the campaign, a few candidates spoke strongly that they would try to get vc Schram back if elected. Eddie Nagual would hardly say what he stood for on anything. He won anyway. Even today in the year 2013 at Unitech we still vote along ethnic lines. It doesn’t matter what the person who we vote for believes in or will do if elected. The truth is that if they are a member of our ethnic group we will vote for them. Eddie won because of the Sepik block vote. He could believe anything or say anything. Still he would have won. All that matters is where the blood comes from, not how the brain works or if it works at all.
It turns out the whole SRC election at Unitech was a fraud this year. Eddie Nangual should not have won because he should not have been allowed to contest. He was involved in civil disorder earlier in the year and was on a disciplinary list for punishment that should have resulted in his termination.
But something happened that freed Eddie and allowed him to contest. It was a memo signed by the acting vc John Pumwa. That was strange. Everyone knows that vc Pumwa is quite strict. Why would the acting vc allow someone with a serious disciplinary problem to run for leadership of the entire students?
The answer is that Pumwa never gave approval or exemption. The memo with vc Pumwa’s signature was forged by Eddie Nagual’s relative Livingstone Hosea. This was learnt by the following Unitech managers:
- Acting Vice chancellor John Pumwa
- Acting Pro Vice chancellor Macquin Maino
- Pro Vice Chancellor M.A. Satter
- Acting Registrar Veronica Thomas
- Acting Bursar Bapa Bomoteng
Acting VC John Pumwa learnt about the above fraud. He did nothing. Instead he tried to pass the decision to a Pro Vice Chancellor. They also refused to act. Now VC Pumwa is overseas and the Unitech top management continues covering up the corruption of the 2013 SRC election. The reason why this story is being published in is to fight the stubborn determination of Pumwa, Maino, Satter, Thomas and Bomoteng to keep covering up the facts.
These supposedly honest managers have proven themselves to be no better than the last lot. If they had decided to be honest and done the right thing, the SRC election results for president would have been immediately cancelled. Eddie Nangual would be immediately expelled from school for his earlier disciplinary problem. Livingstone Hosea would be arrested for fraud and expelled permanently from the Unitech. The entire Unitech management above should be charged with obstruction of justice.
It could be that the Unitech management has gone corrupt because they worry that if they give Livingstone punishment that fits the crime, Livingstone’s almost adopted uncle, Don Polye, will corruptly come to his rescue and behind the scenes pressure the Unitech administration to lift the suspension. Potential corruption at Unitech is endless.
Right now we have a rotten mess at Unitech. Wrongdoers are protecting the wrongdoing of other people. We strongly urge the government to start an investigation into the corruption of the SRC election at Unitech. Anyone who has further information is urged to report it in the name of honesty. Anyone mentioned in this blog who feels wrongly accused can stop covering up. Start telling the truth. The Unitech management all know about this story now being on the internet for the world to see. Unitech management, you are welcome to defend yourself. End the cover up and tell us the facts as you know them right here and right now.