The allegations reported in the Australian media of an Australian mining company bribing high ranking Nauru politicians is a real test for Australia. The stakes are high. Nauru hosts one of the asylum detention centres under Australia’s “Pacific Solution” policy. Nauru, together with Manus in Papua New Guinea, has relieved Australia of the influx of boat people to Australia and the Australian Government needs the ongoing political support of the host nations to continue the operation of the detention centres.
The Post-Courier has reported that Port Moresby Lawyer, Stanley Liria, ‘has put up his hands to challenge Prime Minister Peter O’Neill for the Ialibu-Pangia seat’.
Liria told the Post-Courier:
‘I can no longer stand by and allow the unprecedented levels of mismanagement continue, both within Ialibu-Pangia and across Papua New Guinea as a whole’.
These are strong words, directed at a man, Peter O’Neill, who in fact has championed Stanley Liria’s career, first as a lawyer, then as a real-estate developer.
Is this simply the case of ‘biting the hand that feeds’, or is there more to this political challenge than meets the eye?
Lets review some key facts:
- Liria is a close wantok of the Prime Minister.
- Peter O’Neill helped champion Liria’s legal career, and even launched Liria’s book encouraging MPs to buy it (see ‘additional evidence’ below).
- Liria is the sole shareholder of Paga Hill Development Company (PNG) Limited (PHDC), a controversial real-estate developer behind the Paga Hill Estate.
In October 2012, there was an international media storm when it was discovered key executives in the project, had been slammed in 3 Commission of Inquiries, 4 Public Accounts Committee inquiries and 2 Auditor General Reports. Rather than investigate PHDC for ‘corrupt dealings’ (to quote the Public Accounts Committee), in late October 2012 the Prime Minister declared Paga Hill Estate a project of national significance (see below).
- Since 2012 the O’Neill government has agreed to act as a formal partner in the Paga Hill Estate project, offering any investor significant tax breaks.
- Prime Minister O’Neill features in the investor brochure issued by Liria’s company this year. In it O’Neill declares the Paga Hill Estate a ‘key project site’ for APEC 2018.
So how can Liria publicly claim to oppose mismanagement by the O’Neill government, when arguably his real-estate development company is a prime beneficiary of this mismanagement.
Are we getting the full picture?
One theory is that Liria is, in fact, an ally of Prime Minister O’Neill, and is being sent into the Ialibu-Pangia electorate to split the opposition vote. If he can successfully do this, it will ease O’Neill’s return to the throne.
An alternative factual scenario, which is being put forward by PNG Blogs, is that Liria has turned against his former friend and benefactor – and joining forces with a number of senior politicians who want to steal the O’Neill throne.
There is evidence to support this hypothesis:
- Stanley Liria is close friends and has business links with Governor William Powi, who wants to topple the PM.
- Liria is the long-time front-man for the Icelandic-Australian businessman Gudmundur Fridriksson, a man whose businesses have been censured for corruption and other illegal activities in 1 Commission of Inquiry, 4 Public Accounts Committee inquiries and 2 Auditor General reports.
- Peter O’Neill’s close friend and ally, Minister Justin Tkatchenko has accused Fridriksson and PHDC of bankrolling a rival candidate in his seat of Moresby South, to the tune of K1 million. The rivalry between Tkatchenko and Fridriksson goes back to the Bill Skate days, when both were foreign businessmen competing for the profitable affections of Mr Skate.
- Tkatchenko has lobbied for a Commission of Inquiry into the Paga Hill Estate, which if O’Neill enacted could lead to Fridriksson and Liria’s downfall.
- William Duma is a hidden partner in Paga Hill Estate.
So there are two hypotheses:
- Stanley Liria remains a close ally of Peter O’Neill, who has benefited from the PM’s support, and in repayment will help divide the opposition vote, as a fake rival.
- Liria has split from O’Neill, and believes his own business interests, and those of his close associates, will be better served by forming a rival coalition that can take the Prime Ministership from O’Neill.
O’Neill vouches for new law book
Post-Courier, 12 January 2005, page 2
A LOT of parliamentarians do not know much about Papua New Guinea law despite being the country’s lawmakers, Opposition Leader Peter O Neill said yesterday.
Praising Southern Highlands lawyer and author Stanley Liria for writing a book titled A Law Awareness for Papua New Guinea – Our Guide to The Rule of Law, Mr O Neill said he would recommend to his parliament colleagues that they buy the newly published book.
He said the book would help MPs understand the basics of PNG law, which was important as most parliamentarians passed laws without having a sound knowledge of the legal system.
I will try to see if I can get some members of Parliament, as I said many of us don t come from a legal background, we pass laws on the floor of Parliament that we don t sometimes understand, Mr O Neill said.
There is no real explanation before the bills get passed.
A book of this nature will assist us (MPs) in doing so, we will certainly write to each member and see if they are interested in trying to get this book (in order) to understand the workings of the law and the judicial system of the country.
Talking about his first book that took five years to put together, Mr Liria said the title was written in simple English and should attract readers from all walks of life.
He said the book should dispel the perception that only lawyers and law enforcement officers should know about law and would strive to ensure its selling price is kept to a minimum to attract a wide readership.
Mr Liria said the 94-page book would cost between K25 and K30 and people wishing to buy a copy or place orders could contact him on mobile 684 8273 or e-mail email@example.com
Having promised a Commission of Inquiry, under the predicted Chairmanship of (Rtd) Judge Graham Ellis, who cut his teeth in the National and Supreme Court during the 1990s, working a number of high profile anti-corruption inquiries, PM O’Neill has been in reverse gear ever since.
This culminated first in an announcement by the Attorney General, that his government had somehow overlooked court proceedings barring any Commission of Inquiry from being convened.
Then we learnt yesterday that an ‘administrative inquiry’ would be convened, under the leadership of John Griffin QC.
John Griffin QC is most well-known for dashing the hopes of the country, when he managed to secure for his client Jimmy Maladina, a suspended sentence after the latter confessed to misappropriating K2.65 million during his tenure as Chairman of the National Provident Fund, a time when he was joined at the corporate hip to Peter O’Neill. The court let Maladina go with a suspended 8 year sentence, and a 2 year good behaviour bond. On the other hand, a middle man Maladina acted through received 6 years prison.
Later Griffin managed to get even Maladina’s conviction overturned by the Court, despite the fact Maladina ‘admitted freely that he had committed the offence’.
Given Jimmy Maladina declared himself bankrupt, and claims to have sold off his Australian properties to pay restitution – it can only be assumed Maladina has good friends who could pay for a silk of Griffin’s stature.
However, with a budget of K2 million for this ‘administrative inquiry’ into Duma/Pok, paying for high priced silks will not be a problem.
We are told the inquiry began on 7 March, and will continue for 4 weeks, with a finishing date of 28 March. Ahem, that’s actually 3 weeks!
For this 3 week work period, the commission will have a budget of K666,666 – perhaps an appropriate enough sum! Even if the entire commission team furiously shovelled kina into an open fire, they couldn’t physically burn this sum of cash in three weeks.
If we assume Griffin QC is paid K85,000 per week – the sort of sum a QC fetches – that gets us through K255,000 over the three week period. You would need a team of 8 QCs working around the clock to expend this K2 million budget.
We assume in the interests of ‘accountability and transparency’, to quote the PM, he will publish the inquiry’s budget in full?
As we watch O’Neill’s stance over Manumanu dilute on a daily basis, it must be asked – did the PM overplay his original hand against Duma and Pok, and are we now seeing all parties backtrack so they can resume cordial relations at the top of the trough following this year’s national elections?
Papua New Guinea’s Minister for APEC, Sports and Special Events is applying for planning permission to build an elaborate mini-estate on an 8.5 acre property, 15 Upper Brookfield Road, recently purchased, in his wife’s name, in a the suburbs of Brisbane.
There is, however, confusion in the official documentation submitted by the Tkatchenko’s to the Brisbane City Council, over the name of the company making the development application.
On June 1, 2016, Tkatchenko’s wife, Catherine, signed a form stating the planning application for 15 Upper Brookfield Road is being made by an Australian company, Kitara Pty Limited.
The Planning Consultant firm Catherine and Justin have hired to manage their planning consent application, Clegg Town Planning, then submitted the full development application to Brisbane City Council. In their covering letter, dated 9 June 2016, Clegg’s clearly states the application is being made on behalf of their client, Kitara Pty Limited.
As an extract from the Australian Securities and Investment Commission shows, Kitara Pty Ltd is an Australian listed company owned by two Chinese nationals, Lam and Hung Kam, based in Melbourne.
What is the connection between the Kam’s and Minister Tkatchenko’s planned rural estate in the Brisbane suburbs?
Perhaps none, as other documentation filed in respect of the planning application for 15 Upper Brookfield Road uses a completely different company name, Kitoro No.33 Limited – documents such as the Development Application Lodgement Form, lodged on 19 July, 2016:
And the IDAS Form:
Kitoro No.33 is, of course, a PNG registered company long associated with Minister Tkatchenko and some of his dubious business dealings.
So what is going on here? Did Catherine forget the name of her and her husbands company is Kitoro No.33 and mistakenly sign a form saying it was Kitara Pty Limited?
Or was this an attempt to intentionally mislead and deceive?
Maybe Kitara Pty, and the Han’s, are somehow connected to the Tkatchenko’s and their planning application?
But if so, why the sudden switch in the documentation to using the name Kitoro No.33?
If nothing else, someone needs to clear up the confusion and inform the council and the people of Brisbane just who is making the development application!
Papua New Guinea’s Minister for APEC, Sports and Special Events, Justin Tkatchenko, is planning to build for himself a lavish multi-million dollar mini-estate on 8.5 acres of land in the rural Brisbane suburb of Brookfield.
The estate will comprise an ornate main dwelling (shown above) with feature spiral staircase and cupola roof, a three bed-room second dwelling, large gym, animal stables, an ornamental lake with two fountains, a large bird aviary complex, 25 metre swimming pool, two pavilions, garages, sheds, large greenhouse and other outbuildings.
All this on a piece of land Tkatchenko purchased for a cool $1.77 million in November 2015, as revealed on PNG Blogs .
Tkatchenko already owns another home in Brisbane, in the exclusive inner city suburb of Fig Tree Pocket, purchased in 2011 for $1.1 million.
Minister Tkatchenko has a long history of unanswered fraud allegations and has been exposed for lying to Parliament over contracts awarded to his family business; the same business, Kitoro No.33, that is now involved in the development of 15 Upper Brookfield Road.
If you can judge the wealth of a man by the size of his house then the last four years have been very kind to Justin Tkatchenko. Based on the value of his property holdings in Queensland he might have tripled his wealth as a Minister since 2012!
Last week PNG Blogs revealed that Minister Tkatchenko has recently purchased a piece of land in the Brookfield area of Brisbane for a cool $1.6 million. Brookfield is a largely rural superb about 13km west of the Brisbane city centre.
For his $1.6m (about K3.8 million), Tkatchenko has acquired an empty block of land on which Brisbane City Council records reveal, he now intends to build a house, secondary dwelling, horse stables, greenhouses, garage, gym, a 380 square metre aviary and a lake!. When completed, his new mini estate, will be worth well upwards of $3 million.
But the Brookfield estate is not the only property Tkatchenko ownes in Brisbane. In 2011 he purchased No. 12 Cubberla Street in the exclusive suburb of Fig Tree Pocket for a cool $1.1 million (approximately K2.6 million).
Fig Tree Pocket is an up-market riverside suburb 5km west of the Brisbane CBD. The houses are spacious and widely spread and there is a large proportion of trees and parks and little noise or traffic.
No. 12 Cubberla Street is described as “a stunning family home” where “Country Style Acreage Meets Inner City Convenience”.
This is how the real estate agents describe Justin’s current home in Cubberla Street…
“Set in the most idyllic setting offering the peace and tranquillity of a country manor, this majestic home is only minutes to suburban facilities and the CBD virtually on its doorstep. Free of neighbours and so in touch with nature this type of living is hard to find.
A sprawling, elevated and landscaped 2467m2 parcel of land is graced by a brick home of equally large proportions offering space for the whole family. The master built home offers beautiful informal and formal spaces for hassle free entertaining.
The stunning atrium style lounge is a stylish centrepiece of the home compete with double
sided fireplace that integrates perfectly with dining and kitchen and meals area. A gourmet kitchen with high quality appliances is set adjacent to the entertainers deck with a captivating scenery outlook.
A private and elegant master suite allows for a tranquil parents retreat complete with walk-in robe, lavish ensuite and access to the expansive wrap around verandahs. Two remaining bedrooms on the upper level both boast built-in robes, while the fourth bedroom on the lower makes for a great guests quarters with a separate rumpus room leading out to the manicured gardens.
The oversized garage easily accommodates 3 cars with ample storage and work bench space. This stunning family home also features a study and is perfect for the growing family and provides a wonderful private and secluded oasis for children to play and explore”.
So, from $1.1 million in 2011, after five years as a Minister, Justin now owns property in Brisbane worth over $2.7 million and has plan to turn that into more than $4 million once his new home is built!
Our country needs the active help of those who often don’t do anything more than read social media postings if we are to keep Peter O’Neill from defeating truth and justice. In the coming weeks we the people of our land will either be jumping in the streets with pride and joy that we have defeated evil or we will feel intensely shamed for years to come by the knowledge that we were defeated not because we were wrong, but because we didn’t give the same effort as the evil people in power did.
To help you take action PNGBlogs has created a selection of papers and postings from around the internet as a guide to students and everyone else to learn more about the national crisis issues that are now reaching the point of explosion.
Until all of us as PNGeans become much better educated on the issues, we will not be motivated enough to correct the problems. Each and every one of us must learn more about the facts of the matter. That’s why we put together this collection of information for you.
Please download the pdf that is attached to this article and educate yourself. The resource book covers all of the following critical disaster areas and provides facts and figures.
CONTENTS OF THE RESOURCE BOOK: CURRENT STATE OF PNG DEVELOPMENT, CORRUPTION IN PNG, LOSS OF FREEDOM, OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE, GROWING DICTATORSHIP, PNG EDUCATION AND HEALTH, FINANCIAL MISMANAGEMENT, UBS LOAN, PAUL PARAKA SCAM, ISRAELI GENERATOR PURCHASE, PACIFIC GAMES, SABL LAND GRAB, OK TEDI GRAB, STATE OWNED ENTERPRISES.
Please help PNG by doing one or more of the following now:
- Email the link to this page to your family and friends now, or e-mail the resource book as an attachment.
- Photocopy and post articles that you find of special interest in your workplace or in public places.
- If you still have ties to the village, organize your wantoks to read these materials and develop awareness programs back home.
- Make hard copies available to our university and college students quickly. We cannot do this because we are not on the ground at UPNG, Unitech, UNRE, or other campuses that are becoming active. The students can use this information when they go out and do awareness on the issues that relate to their demands.
“There is some scepticism that Australia is held over a barrel with the asylum seekers deal and is willingly turning a blind eye to the corruption and rule of law problems that are plaguing the host nations –PNG and Nauru.”
Australia’s stance on corruption – will all roads lead to Nauru (and Manus)?
Thanks must go to the Australian Federal Police (AFP) who, without fear or favour, investigated this case, which could potentially harm Australia’s relationship with Nauru. From the media reports, it seems that the AFP is at an advanced stage of the investigation and arrests might be made soon.
Australia is a member of the OECD Working Group on Bribery and a party to the key international conventions concerned with combating foreign bribery, such as the Anti-Bribery Convention and the United Nations Convention against Corruption.
Australia is also the immediate past president of the G20. According to the fifth principle of the G20 Guiding Principles on Enforcement of the Foreign Bribery Offence:
“Investigation and prosecution of foreign bribery should not be subject to improper influence based on concerns of the national economic interest, the potential effect upon relations with another State, or the identity of the natural or legal person involved.”
To remain a corruption-free trading partner in the region, Australia needs to show the way in dealing with bribery allegations such as this, even if it comes at a cost.
There is some scepticism that Australia is held over a barrel with the asylum seekers deal and is willingly turning a blind eye to the corruption and rule of law problems that are plaguing the host nations –PNG and Nauru. This case will test those claims.
Australia also has to contend with the recent adverse findings of the Financial Action Task-Force (FATF) [pdf] that:
“Australia remains at significant risk of an inflow of illicit funds from persons in foreign countries who find Australia a suitable place to hold and invest funds, including in real estate.”
When it comes to bribery of foreign government officials, it takes two to tango: the bribe-giver and the bribe-taker. Getax, the Australian mining company alleged to have been involved in supplying the bribe, may have its directors and the company itself prosecuted by the AFP under the Australian law. But we should not forget the Nauru officials who may have demanded the alleged bribe.
Under the Australian Criminal Code Act 1995, only Australian companies and individuals engaged in bribing an official in a foreign country can be prosecuted. This is not dissimilar to the United States Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977 (FCPA). There is, however, a way around it. If the proceeds of the predicate or underlying offence, in this case bribery, are found to have been laundered to Australia, then Australia can mount money-laundering actions against the persons implicated under the Proceeds of Crimes Act 2002 (POCA).
Prosecuting any Nauru officials will require the cooperation of the Nauru authorities. The Nauru Anti-Money Laundering Act 2008 makes provisions for cooperation with a foreign state in the investigation and prosecution of money-laundering offences (see section 80 of the Act). Nauru itself can prosecute citizens who launder the proceeds of a bribe overseas (see section 6 of the Act). Nauru also has the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Act 2004, which directly corresponds with the Australian Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Act 1987 to facilitate cooperation in the prosecution of persons for criminal matters.
The precedent that Australia sets in this case could assure the rest of the Pacific Island countries that Australia does not tolerate corruption and is prepared to pay the price to combat cross-border corruption. Or it could send a message that in cases of corruption Australia will only go after the bribe-giver, and not government officials. It seems that the cat has now been let out of the bag and there is only one way – investigate all the offenders.
* Sam Koim is Chairman of the multi-agency, anti-corruption body Taskforce Sweep and Principal Legal Officer at the Department of Justice and Attorney General, Papua New Guinea.