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‘Gross manipulation and dishonesty’ over Manumanu land deals

April 24, 2018 1 comment

Ministers Pok and Duma have still to be cleared over their involvement in Manumanu land deal

“Gross amount of manipulation and dishonesty between the three key state agencies including Kumul Consolidated Holdings Limited, Defence Department and Lands Department”.

Source: The National

THE disappearance of files from the Lands Department on the Manumanu land deal points to “corruption” and “conspiracy”, according to an inquiry.

The report of the inquiry into the land transactions and deals by the Ministry of Public Enterprise and State Investment, and Ministry of Defence, was recently handed over by chairman John Anthony
Griffin QC to Prime Minister Peter O’Neill.

“The fact that the Lands Department files disappeared strongly supports the proposition that there was corruption involved and there is circumstantial evidence which supports the notion that there
was a wide-ranging conspiracy, such as the lengths some personnel in the Lands Department have gone through in removing all the files containing evidence relating to the transaction,” the report stated.

It said it needed a full investigation “to uncover the conspiracy”.

The report highlighted that the valuation of land Portion 406 at the cost of K46.6 million was so far in excess of the true value and was “fraudulently high”.

It said the Defence Council did not approve the land purchase “nor was there any feasibility studies being done on that portion of the land prior to the acquisition”.

The inquiry cleared the Motor Vehicle Insurance Limited, State Solicitor, Land Titles Commission and their department heads of any wrongdoing.

It said there was a “gross amount of manipulation and dishonesty between the three key state agencies including Kumul Consolidated Holdings Limited, Defence Department and Lands Department”.

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Elomar brothers in $9 million legal row over PNG deal

April 23, 2018 Leave a comment

The Elomar brothers in Papua New Guinea.

By Patrick Begley, Sydney Morning Herald

Sydney businessmen the Elomar brothers were busy in 2014.

Mamdouh Elomar was publicly decrying the actions of his son Mohamed, an Islamic State fighter in Syria who would go on to be photographed holding severed heads.

Mamdouh was also vying for Iraqi construction contracts with his brother Ibrahim, arranging a $US1 million bribe for which they would both be jailed last year.

But the pair struck another deal that year, paying $6 million for a logging company only to end up negotiating a $9 million payment from the previous owners after a dispute.

The case, now before the courts, involves the forests of Papua New Guinea and a development fund meant to help lift locals out of poverty.

And it hinges on claims that another businessman stole more than $10 million in assets belonging to the Papua New Guinean people.

Mamdouh, 64, and Ibrahim, 61, were raised in Lebanon in a family of 12 children and worked manual jobs in Australia before building a large construction company, Lifese.

The firm counted a former Supreme Court judge as its chairman and completed projects worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

In time, though, the Elomar brothers became better known for the extremist activities of their relatives.

Mamdouh’s brother Mohamed Ali Elomar is serving 21 years’ jail for his role in planning attempted terrorist attacks in Melbourne and Sydney in 2005.

Mamdouh’s son Ahmed was jailed for four years for assaulting a policeman at the 2012 riots in Sydney’s Hyde Park, after carrying a sign that said “our dead are in paradise, your dead are in hell”.

Then his son Mohamed, formerly a promising boxer, travelled to Syria to become one of Australia’s most infamous IS fighters, before he was killed in an airstrike in 2015.

Terrorism headlines were hurting the Lifese business in 2014, shrinking revenue.

But the Elomars found money in February that year to buy a timber operation called Cloudy Bay from the PNG Sustainable Development Program, a charitable trust part-run by Australians.

Managing $US1.3 billion in assets, PNG SDP funds local development projects with proceeds from the Ok Tedi mine that was once owned by BHP, which handed over its stake in return for immunity from environmental lawsuits.

“We commit ourselves to improving the quality of life of the people of Western Province,” the program says on its website.

The Elomars were joined by another Australian, 25 per cent shareholder Nick Roniotis, in buying the Cloudy Bay timber operation – including logging permits, production plants and a commercial building in Port Moresby – for 40 million kina, about $17 million at the time.

They paid $6.5 million up front, but then defaulted on the rest.

As they faced charges over the bribery in Iraq, the Elomars were negotiating hard over the PNG business to strike a new and unusual deal.

It would have allowed them to keep control of the company while receiving millions of dollars more than they ended up paying for it.

The deal, signed last February, was meant to put an end to a murky dispute.

PNG SDP could have taken back all of the timber operations’ assets, but it decided to forgive the $11 million debt in return for the Port Moresby property alone.

On top of this, PNG SDP said it would pay the Elomars’ company $9 million.

Once the property was transferred back to the development program and the money paid, both sides would relinquish any right to sue over the initial sale.

The deal was fair, according to PNG SDP’s Australian chief executive John Wylie, because it compensated the Elomars for a massive theft on the timber operation.

A former public servant and management consultant, Mr Wylie said the theft was committed by someone working within the development fund before the sale to the Elomars and was only discovered later.

“Physical assets” were allegedly stolen and funds siphoned off to pay for personal expenses, including school fees in Australia.

“The validated quantum of the theft was much more than $9 million,” he said.

The alleged thief, who cannot be named for legal reasons, has been reported to an anti-corruption body in Singapore, where the company was incorporated, Mr Wylie said.

“The PNG authorities are in the process of being informed,” he said. “This is being done carefully through lawyers and has yet to be fully executed.”

Deeds sighted by The Sun-Herald refer not to a theft but “disputes” between the buyer and seller.

Asked why the $9 million payment was to go to the Elomars personally, not the Cloudy Bay company, Mr Wylie said Cloudy Bay had given a written executed authority for it.

“How they divvied up the spoils, as it were – we didn’t want to get involved in that. None of our business.”

The deal has yet to go through.

The Elomars’ former business partner, Mr Roniotis, claimed he was cut out of the $9 million payment. He launched action in PNG’s National Court of Justice to have the sum paid to the timber company, not the Elomars’ venture.

Mr Roniotis also questioned the idea of compensation for a theft, saying he and the Elomars conducted due diligence on the company before buying it and found nothing untoward.

His lawyer, Stewart Levitt, has questioned the negotiations between PNG SDP and the Elomars, who at the time had been facing foreign bribery charges for more than a year.

“It would be extraordinary for the trustees of a public trust to want to continue to do business with people known to be facing serious criminal charges which had been widely reported,” Mr Levitt said.

The Elomars, who pleaded guilty to the Iraq bribery last July, will be first eligible for release in September next year. Their lawyer at the time of the PNG deal negotiations, Abdul Reslan, did not return calls.

The establishment of PNG SDP and environmental damage from the Ok Tedi mine is now under investigation after PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill announced a public inquiry in parliament this month.

Filipino land grab doubles to 2 million hectares

March 28, 2018 Leave a comment

“Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister Peter O’Neil [sic] instantly offered 100,000 hectares for planting even starting tomorrow, but can develop easily 2 million hectares in government lands for rice farming with irrigation.”

The problem is, the PNG government doesn’t have even 100,000 hectares of land, let alone 2 million hectares. So whose land are they going to use – and how many Filipino rice farmers are we going to allow into the country?

See also:

Filipino’s on their way to claim 1 million hectares

O’Neill and Allan stitch up another huge land grab

On Piñol’s idea to rise with rice in Papua New Guinea

Source: Michael Makabenta Alunan – Business Mirror

Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol’s proposal to “export” Filipino private sector-led rice-farming systems to Papua New Guinea may have raised condescending eyebrows from economists and agriculture experts, but his novel strategy can perhaps open up vast potentials and unintended opportunities.

Thinking out of box? Piñol, a boxing aficionado early on in his career, even as a former journalist, long before he joined politics, was thinking out of the box when he proposed to bring high-end Filipino rice-farming systems to Papua New Guinea.

Only over a week ago, Piñol went to Papua New Guinea, a British Commonwealth Realm, and got its Prime Minister Peter O’Neill to commit to come over to meet with President Duterte sometime in May and possibly cement bilateral economic commitments, followed by a treaty that can institutionalize any mutually beneficial arrangements.

However, top-notch economists and agricultural planners led no less by former Socioeconomic Secretary Dr. Cielito Habito and former Agriculture Secretary William Dar have criticized Piñol, asking two valid questions: 1) Why focus on “rice self-sufficiency” when we cannot compete against Thailand’s and Vietnam’s production costs of rice at P5 to P6 per kilo against P10 to P12 per kilo in the Philippines? Many economists would therefore advise to give up the elusive goal of self-sufficiency, and settle instead for food security while focusing on higher incomes from other high-value cash crops and livelihood activities; and 2) Why go to Papua New Guinea when we have more problems locally?

Can’t do away with rice yet. Speaking on March 22 before the 2017 Philippine Agricultural Journalists Inc. and San Miguel Corp.’s BINHI Agricultural Journalism Awards, Piñol argued we cannot simply abandon rice self-sufficiency, unless Filipinos change their diets and reduce their rice consumption.

For the poor, who survive on a hand-to-mouth existence, 80 percent to 90 percent of their income is spent on food, the bulk on rice to fill their hungry stomachs and less on real food. A study by Professor Jeyakumar, a rice dietary expert and one-time fellow of the International Rice Research Institute, noted that obesity of Westerners like the Americans is caused by almost 40 percent in high-fat diets, compared to Asians, whose average diets are composed of 67 percent carbohydrates, mostly rice, and only 21 percent fats. For the dirt poor, rice may even share as much as 90 percent of their diet.

As our traditional sources of rice imports, Vietnam and Thailand are also vulnerable to climate change with Thailand devastated by a tsunami years back, Piñol claims we must continue aiming for rice self-sufficiency and developing alternative sources like Papua New Guinea.

It’s no “Guinea pig,” it’s real! Piñol argues the rice-farming potentials in Papua New Guinea are real and tremendous based on actual pilot results. This makes Piñol’s idea no longer a “guinea-pig experiment,” referring to how scientists use rodents or laboratory rats, popularly called “guinea pigs.”

Actual rice-farming experiments done in Papua New Guinea yielded 8.5 metric tons per hectare, even without fertilizers, even double our national average yield of 4MT per hectare, he revealed in conversations while seated at the BINHI awards.

The reasons for this are 1) Papua New Guinea is blessed with good rainfall with its remaining lush forests and watersheds as evidenced by its vast rivers as wide as a kilometer, and easily diverted to feed irrigation canals; and 2) Papua New Guinea’s farm soils are vastly virgin and rich, unlike Philippine rice lands that are already toxic from four to five decades of chemical fertilizer and pesticide usage.

All the land to offer. Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister Peter O’Neil instantly offered 100,000 hectares for planting even starting tomorrow, but can develop easily 2 million hectares in government lands for rice farming with irrigation.

“PNG has only 8 million people and over 46.28 million hectares of land, mostly forest and agricultural lands, compared to our 105 million and 30 million hectares, respectively,” Piñol said.

Rice farming will mutually benefit both countries. Rice farming will be done exclusively by the private sector, but can tap Filipino workers. Any excess produce can be exported cheap to the Philippines, and any excess exported worldwide. For Papua New Guinea, producing its own rice is novel, as it had long been sourcing rice from former surrogate colonizer, Australia, which allegedly imports cheap rice from Vietnam, then sells it to Papua New Guinea by as much as P100 per kilo.

Pursuing the Papua New Guinea option is logical for Piñol, as we have limited rice lands of 4.8 million hectares. In fact, only 3.9 million hectares are planted to rice, of which only 1.2 million hectares have irrigation, the remaining 2.7 million hectares are rain-fed areas producing only once a year at low yields.

New sites, new sights? As an island archipelago, we have fewer flat lands suitable to rice producing thrice a year, but more sloping mountain areas with mixed eco-systems, including adjacent marine and mangrove areas. Piñol added traditional rice sites like Luzon and Bicol are ravaged yearly by 21 typhoons a year.

We won’t abandon these areas, but we need to develop new sites like Palawan, Samar, Agusan, Zamboanga, Davao, Basilan and Soccsksargen and, of course, in Papua New Guinea.

Piñol declared earlier that even former warzones in Mindanao and portions of military reservations like Fort Magsaysay’s 46,000 hectares, can be converted to production areas. This will realize the biblical phrase of “converting swords to ploughshares,” which we can call transforming arms into farms.

While Piñol is confident of hitting 100-percent rice self-sufficiency by 2020, he says the growing population will overtake our capacity to produce. Thus, the need to develop new sites, and the urgency to keep our sights on new ideas, new technologies and even achieve unintended opportunities, which, ironically, are the very intended targets of our economists and experts. As we gain from new sites, old sites may slowly shift to non-rice, but more profitable commodities and other agro-processing ventures.

Illegal Logging Site Shut-Down, Asians Jailed

March 16, 2018 3 comments

BY NELLIE SETEPANO, Post Courier

AN illegal logging company operating in Northern Province was shut down and 13 Asians without work permits were locked up at the Popondetta cells.

Northern Province Police have confirmed the shutdown of the illegal logging company known as Northern Forest Products at Collingwood Bay, Wanigela with thousands of logs and heavy equipment impounded. All logs and equipment will be moved to Oro Bay.

Provincial Police Commander Chief Inspector Lincoln Gerari said police had acted on advise from National Forest Authority to move onto the site and shut it down after its illegal operations on 45,000 hectares state land that consists of portions 135, 136 and 137.

“We moved in last Friday and caught them off guard, the Asians were cooking pumpkins, and then fled into the bushes and our men went after them,” Gerari said.

When caught, the men complained that they were never fed properly and or paid by the site manager since arriving last September.

Police said the loggers arrived with no legal entry permits and are now arrested and charged under the Employment of Non-Citizens acts 2007. Aged between 28 to 50 years; 12 of the men are from Malaysia and one from Indonesia. This section provides for prohibition of employment without valid work permit. Separately, the site manager was charged for stealing logs on state.

According to police, the provincial government had a keen eye on the operations of the company that had entered into a partnership with landowner group called Aiso [Assor] Development Corporation under the pretext of doing agricultural business and growing cash crops like cocoa.

Northern Governor Garry Juffa who has been aware of the illegal operations and had brought the issue to the attention of National Forest Authority and ensured the shut down happened. He also visited the site after the raid and confirmed the shutdown.

Mr Juffa talked to the villages and assured those involved will be prosecuted.

The governor has been vocal about illegal aliens operating in the province and vowed to remove them.

Filipino’s on their way to claim 1 million hectares

March 7, 2018 3 comments

PNG’s Agriculture Minister Benny Allan and Philippine’s Agriculture Secretary, Pinol

Media in the Philippines is reporting – see below – their Agriculture Secretary is in Port Moresby this week to sign a deal with the PNG government allowing Filipino farmers to plant rice on 1 million hectares of land. Is nobody concerned about this huge land grab and the influx of foreign workers?

Papua New Guinea rice-planting deal expected this week

Source: Business World

THE Philippines will sign this week an agricultural agreement allowing Filipino companies to expand their rice planting operations in Papua New Guinea.

Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol said he will be flying to Papua New Guinea on Wednesday to finalize the deal, which will also include further cooperation in the tuna fishing industry.

“Our interest in Papua New Guinea also includes tuna fishing. We have five canneries owned by Filipinos in Papua New Guinea and we have long been dealing with them,” he told reporters Monday.

He said rice planting in Papua New Guinea helps address the issue of limited area for rice planting in the Philippines, as well as demand from the growing population.

The government-to-government agreement involves projected output of 8 million metric tons on an area of about 1 million hectares within five years. Some of the output will be sold to meet Papua New Guinea domestic demand while the remainder will be purchased by the National Food Authority.

The deal also involves a 100-hectare model farm for use by Filipino companies such as SL Agritech Corp., a producer of hybrid rice seed.

“We are encouraging private companies to invest there so that instead of importing from Thailand or Vietnam, our Filipino companies can invest there instead,” Mr. Piñol said.

How the elite profit while a nation suffers their incompetence

February 19, 2018 2 comments

Port Moresby, a city where the elite profit while the rest suffer the consequences of their incompetence

Imagine a company that is in debt, heavily in debt and still racking up more losses.

Imagine a company that in 2016 alone lost over K354 million.

Imagine a company where the total liabilities exceed the total assets by more than K218 million.

Imagine that this is a company set up by the government to manage a nation’s interests in its abundant mineral resources.

Now imagine no more and say hello to Kumul Minerals Holdings Limited, formerly Petromin PNG Holdings Limited.

The two numbers above are from Kumul Minerals Holdings latest Annual Return, which is for the 2016 financial year.

How could a company that, according to Statute, is supposed to be the commercial enterprise that participates in mineral exploration, development, production, processing and marketing activities on behalf of the State, be run into near bankruptcy?

But never fear, the Directors, the people responsible for this appalling state of affairs, are still profiting handsomely.

While the company was racking up losses of K354 million in 2016 alone its Board members were still taking a handsome pay packet:

Director

Remuneration

Brown Bai

K 159,759

Ian Goddard

K 211,337

Jerry Wemin

K 126,227

William Searson

K 102,654

Richard Tengdui

K 99,809

Issac Lupari

K 68,232

Peter Pokawin

K 23,959

Arunavu Basu

K 182.816

Peter Graham

K 59,028

Stanley Lira

K 33,129

Richard Kuna

K 34,379

In total K1,101,329 paid to eleven men [yes, all men, no room here for gender diversity let alone equality] many, if not all of whom, already occupy other well paid jobs.

K1.1 million paid for overseeing losses of over K354 million, losses that were almost three times greater than in the previous year, 2015 (K133 million).

And the excess does not end there. In addition to the Board remuneration, Kumul Minerals Holdings had 10 staff who earned more than K100,000 each in 2016.

One of those staff earned over K920,000, two more over K620,000, another over K450,000 and one over K300,000. Two more earned over K270,000.

In total, Kumul Minerals Holdings paid its staff just under K9 million in 2016 and spent a further K1.5 million on consultancy and professional fees.

Who is ultimately responsible for this negligent mismanagement of our nations mineral wealth, and the looting of an empty pot?

Well it has to be the trustee shareholder does it not? The person who effectively owns the company on behalf of the nation, who is none other than one Peter O’Neill.

It seems our trustee is not doing a very good job!

Disgraced judge Bernard Sakora resigns in latest move to avoid justice

February 12, 2018 6 comments

Disgraced Judge, Justice Sakora, has resigned to avoid facing court

Having seemingly already wriggled out of one corruption charge in the criminal courts, Justice Sakora has now resigned as a Judge [see story below] in order to close down formal misconduct investigations against him, by the Judicial and Legal Services Commission, and a separate Leadership Code Tribunal, instigated by the Ombudsman Commission.

Sakora’s criminal charge was in relation to his role in preventing the publication of the findings of the Commission of Inquiry into the Department of Finance which first revealed the role of Paul Paraka and his law firm in scamming millions of kina from the government. It is alleged Sakora received K100,000 from Paraka in return for granting the injunction. 

During the Finance Inquiry hearings, Sakora also granted an injunction to Messrs Gelu, Lupari and Lui, stopping investigations into their role in the Paraka scams. The injunctions were withdrawn after an appeal by the Commissioners.

Sakora was also recently heavily criticised by the Supreme Court over his awarding of almost K18 million in damages to Peter Yama and a further K5 in costs.  Both orders were revoked by the Supreme Court.

As the Leadership Tribunal investigating Sakora, which has been sitting since August and includes a New Zealand judge on the panel, will now have to be abandoned, the Justice Minister should reveal how much the Tribunal has cost.

Yet more tax payers money wasted while another white collar criminal walks free!

PNG Attorney General reveals judge’s resignation

Justice Minister and Attorney General, Davis Steven has revealed the resignation of senior judge, Justice Sir Bernard Sakora from the National and Supreme Courts.

In a statement today, Minister Steven says, he has advised the prime minister of Justice Sakora’s resignation.

The senior judge has given 25 years of service to the nation, making him the second longest current serving judge to the Deputy Chief Justice Salika.

Mr Steven says Justice Sakora resigned on his own accord, to take rest from public office.

Sir Bernard leaves a legacy behind in his strong punctuation of academic reasoning, and his grammatical flair sets his recorded decisions apart.

Minister Steven thanked Sir Bernard for serving the judiciary and the country as a judge.

The resignation of Justice Sakora effectively terminates formal investigations into misconduct allegations against him, initiated by the Judicial and Legal Services Commission, and a separate Leadership Code investigation process, instigated by the Ombudsman Commission.

NBC News/ PNG Today