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Paul Paraka seeks K24 million payments

February 23, 2016 3 comments

paul_paraka

by STEVEN ANDRE, PNG Blogs

The law firm at the centre of fraud allegations involving the Prime Minister and many other high-ranking people in PNG is ‘striking again’.

In a letter dated 26th January 2016, Paul Paraka writes to Secretary for Finance, Dr Ken Ngangen, for some outstanding payments of K24.1 million. The bills comprised of a K12.940 million principal amount as purportedly confirmed by two National Court Orders in 2007 and interest component of K11.170 million. Mr Paraka claims that the bills were cleared by the Solicitor General in 2005 and two National Court orders subsequently confirmed it. He claims that the bills were not paid in the past because there were some Supreme Court cases pending and now that the cases had been concluded in July 2014, the Department of Finance is legally obliged to make these payments, failure to which would result in contempt of court proceedings. Mr Paraka refers to a letter by the Attorney General Ano Pala dated 6th July 2014 to then Commissioner of Police Geoffrey Vaki, where Mr Pala purportedly legitimized the payment of these legal bills.

On 2nd February 2016, Dr Ken Nangen wrote to Mr Paraka, acknowledging receipt of his claim and stated that he would conduct his due diligence, consult the relevant legal authorities and revert to him.

It is understood, the good secretary for finance wrote to the Attorney General a few days after that, seeking his advise on the Paraka’s claims in light of various civil and criminal proceedings currently on foot. It is not known the action taken by the sleazy Attorney General.

If one looks at how Paul Paraka has built his now debunked criminal network, it is evidentially clear that he had not been acting alone nor has he benefited alone. Paraka had the entire system from Prime Ministers down to the tea boys working for him –orchestrating his fraudulent payments. His subsequent arrest by the Taskforce Sweep team has exposed that criminal network.

One thing about this kind of habitual fraudsters is that they do not just write a random letter to lodge a claim. They act on purpose and coordinated. So at this time when the same bills are quarantined in various criminal and civil court cases including those ones involving Paraka himself and Prime Minister Peter O’Neill, Paraka is striking again. Is he acting alone? You bet.

The following circumstances should shed some light:-

1.     The mastermind of the Parakagate was Mr Paraka himself but he kept a low profile when PM O’Neill was brought to the fore to answer to criminal charges. It is understood PM stopped supporting Paraka and left him in the cold since PM was slapped with the arrest warrant. Paraka is understood to be fending for himself, by liquidating his assets and at times, smuggles bettlenuts into the city. Paraka is a frustrated man, having spent money and resources to fund PNC in the 2012 elections and defended many of PNC candidates election petitions for free. For some reason, Paraka refused to expose the PM and other high profile individuals who have benefited from the fraud. That has been his last arrow in his quiver –bargaining chip.

2.     Paraka’s fresh claims were coincidently lodged at the time when his [Paraka’s] favourite judge, the honourable Sir Bernard Sakora was scheduled to sit on an appeal concerning the PM O’Neill’s arrest warrant. It is understood Sakora took possession of the Supreme Court appeal file at the time when Paraka lodged his fresh claims. It was reported in the news that Sakora heard this matter on 4/2/16 but the decision which was scheduled to be handed down the next day, seems to be unusually delayed for at least 3 weeks now.

Controversial Sakora was the judge who issued a stay order in favour of Paul Paraka on a Saturday morning in Alotau in March 2010 to thwart the publication and implementation of the Commission of Inquiry into Finance Department Report. The court order remained on foot until December 2013 when the Chief Justice, Sir Salamo Injia set it aside. Sakora is from nambis and Paraka from Highlands –what’s the connection?

Sakora is not new to controversy. [Part 2 of this article will cover more of that…..to be continued]

3.     In less than a week, Isaac Lupari, one of the venal individuals who is heavily featured in the Finance Commission of Inquiry and who had been a mastermind in managing PM’s Paraka related cases in court, was appointed as the Chief Secretary to Government.

Remember that back then, in 2006, it was the Chief Secretary Joshua Kalinoe who issued a stop payment on Paul Paraka legal bills payments and advised Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare to establish a Commission of Inquiry into the same bills. Now we have a Chief Secretary who is closer to Paraka.

4.     Ano Pala is copied in the letter by Paul Paraka and interestingly, Dr Ngangen would seek Pala’s clarification on these bills. Pala’s reaction to this is unknown, but what is clear is that Pala is responsible for all legal representations on behalf of the PM.

The Merits of Paraka’s Claims

It appears on the face of it that Secretary Ngangen properly referred the bills to the Attorney General. However, what is worrying is the fact that the same Attorney General (Pala) may be acting in cohorts with Paraka given that Pala previously came out in the public claiming that Paraka’s bills were legitimate. The letter Paraka claims to have been written by Pala dated 6th July 2014 is also a concern as now Paraka is relying on it to lodge fresh claims when the cases concerning the merits of the same bills are believed to be litigated in court. Also note that Paraka copied his letter to Pala.

Mr Paraka claims that the Supreme Court on 4 July 2014 concluded the Supreme Court cases and without stating the details of that decision, he manipulates it with the impression that the Supreme Court decision did not have any effect his reliance on the National Court orders which he claims are still on foot. From my recollection, the Supreme Court made adverse findings against Paraka and heavily criticized him and the orders were discharged.  A legal contact supplied me with the case citation -Kalinoe v Paul Paraka Lawyers [2014] PGSC 38; SC1366 (10 July 2014) where the Court, in upholding the appeal by the State, specifically ruled “Except only for the orders granting leave, the decision and orders of the National Court in National Court proceedings, OS 829 of 2006 and OS 876 of 2006, respectively arrived at on 17th November 2006 and 02nd March 2007 are quashed and set aside.”

I recall Ano Pala misinterpreted that Supreme Court decision, in almost verbatim of Paraka’s letter, that the bills are now cleared and no criminality in it. The Supreme Court compelled him to appear and explain. Pala almost went to jail for it. Isn’t it surprising that the position Pala took then, is the same position reflected in Paraka’s letter??

Conclusion

Paraka is not acting alone. In light of what I have highlighted above, it leads me to a convincing theory, that there is some conspiracy at play. That conspiracy has got to do with Sakora dealing with the case involving PM O’Neill’s arrest warrant. And the connection to Sakora is Paraka. Paraka wants these payments to be made in return for a favourable decision –probably to stay the trial hearing which is scheduled to take place on 3rd March 2016. PM has been trying all his best with the courts and hired the best lawyers but his attempts were in vain. According to records available in the public domain, this is the first time Sakora sits on a Paraka related case since his Alotau order. My contacts within the judiciary tell me that Sakora is crazy and he can make crazy decisions.

You have Ano Pala and Isaac Lupari strategically positioned to facilitate these kinds of deals. These guys are openly defying the social norms and structures. They don’t have a single moral impulse remaining in them to impose restraint on their actions.  They are taking the cue from their master –PO. Their persistent tendencies to commit crimes are becoming like infectious disease.

Attachments: Paul Paraka Lawyers letter to Finance Secretary and the response therefrom.

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O’Neill Government safe for now, but still mired in corruption allegations

October 31, 2015 Leave a comment
PNG Prime Minister Peter O'Neill at the Lowy Institute, 2012. (Peter Morris.)

PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill at the Lowy Institute, 2012. (Peter Morris.)

Jenny Hayward Jones | The Interpreter

Papua New Guinean Prime Minister Peter O’Neill comprehensively headed off a motion of no confidence in parliament yesterday over corruption allegations. O’Neill’s assertion that his government is stable and will ‘continue to provide stability’ ahead of handing down a difficult budget next week is convincing, particularly as he yesterday won a vote of confidence 78 votes to two. But doubts remain about his government’s commitment to the rule of law and freedom of speech.

I wrote about the O’Neill Government’s apparent lack of respect for the rule of law in June 2014 (‘PNG: O’Neill Survives, Rule of Law Suffers’). At that time, Prime Minister O’Neill had avoided an arrest warrant issued relating to his alleged connections to fraudulent payments from the Papua New Guinea Finance Department to Paraka Lawyers.

This matter has continued to reverberate. In July this year former Police Commissioner Geoffrey Vaki was found guilty of contempt of court for failing to execute the2014 arrest warrant against the Prime Minister and sentenced to three years in jail. In August, two PNG detectives with the National Fraud and Anti-Corruption Directorate, Chief Superintendent Mathew Damaru and Chief Inspector Timothy Gitua, brought contempt charges against new Police Commissioner Gari Baki for alleged interference with an arrest warrant that had been issued for Treasury Secretary Dairi Vele on charges of official corruption relating to decisions of the Prime Minister. Vele won a stay against the warrant in July, pending a court decision on setting aside the warrant.

Commissioner Baki then began an investigation into Damaru and Gitua and issued an arrest warrant against them.

Two Australian lawyers, Greg Egan and Terence Lambert, who were joining the legal team acting for Damaru and Gitua, were denied entry to Papua New Guinea in late September. They believed this to be politically motivated. A week later the National Court of Justice overturned the ban imposed by the PNG Department of Immigration and the two lawyers were permitted entry. The arrest warrant against Damaru and Gitua was stayed by the National Court in October and Baki was restrained from further investigating the detectives and their lawyer in a case which cast doubt on Baki’s commitment to police impartiality.

The Government also sought to suspend Chief Magistrate Nerrie Eliakim in early October. Eliakim is the magistrate who issued the arrest warrant against the Prime Minister. The Government insists its move to suspect Eliakim is related to complaints received about her performance rather than her involvement in the Prime Minister’s case.

In a further twist this week, Supreme Court Judge George Manahu dismissed the application of Attorney-General Ano Pala to have an arrest warrant against him stayed. Pala is alleged to have conspired with Finance Minister James Marape, Prime Minister O’Neill and others to defeat the course of justice in relation to the investigations into the Paraka Lawyers payments. Importantly, the judge said the power of police to investigate and arrest should not be interfered with, that criminal matters do not recognise the status of a person in the community, and that being a minister and the chief legal adviser to the government is irrelevant. In other words: no-one is above the law. Assistant Police Commissioner Thomas Eluh, perhaps fearing another lawsuit, has called for Pala to  hand himself in for questioning at the National Fraud and Anti-Corruption Directorate office, declaring ‘we cannot be going around looking to arrest a national leader’. But Pala doesn’t have time to hand himself in this week – he is busy attending parliament.

This convoluted web of legal processes which the Government has woven has created a public perception that it has something to hide. The Prime Minister has encouraged this perception through his unwillingness to engage with critics. His government has cracked down on ‘improper use’ of the internet, with new laws imposing fines and jail sentences for placing ‘offensive’ or ‘false’ information online – apparently targeting social media activists who have been very critical of the government. The Prime Minister decided in August that Australian journalist John Garnaut and former Treasury official Paul Flanagan were no longer welcome in Papua New Guinea because of their criticism of his government’s budget management. A peaceful public protest against the Prime Minister at the beginning of this week in Port Moresby which drew only small numbers provoked a disproportionate reaction from the police.

Why a leader with a parliamentary majority that would be the envy of prime ministers the world over should be sensitive about a few critics on social media, an Australian economist and a journalist is curious.

Prime Minister O’Neill’s ability to maintain his dominance is not as easy now as it was at this time last year. The dramatic fall in commodity prices, consequent budgetary challenges and the El Nino drought threaten his capacity to deliver promised nationally significant reforms such as free education and healthcare, and maintain the District Services Improvement Program under which MPs receive grants to administer services and development initiatives in their electorates and which secure their loyalty to the Prime Minister. O’Neill is also clearly concerned about his legal battles, which ultimately may present the greatest threat to his leadership.

Nevertheless, for the moment O’Neill remains in a strong position with few realistic competitors for his job. O’Neill is right that Papua New Guinea needs a stable government to deal with the challenges facing the nation. But the people of Papua New Guinea also need a government that respects the rule of law and is confident enough to engage with its critics about the best way to deal with those challenges.

New Attorney General Ano Palo a perfect fit for the O’Neill government

June 20, 2014 2 comments

Like many in O’Neill’s orbit, the newly appointed Minister for Justice and, gulp, Attorney General, has an impressive history of overseeing government agencies mired in corruption, mismanagement and fraud.

When Parliamentary Clerk, the Public Accounts Committee found that Palo illegally gave out hundreds of thousands of taxpapyer dollars to some familiar names:

  • Australian businessman Justin Tkatchenko’s (come PNG Minister!) company Kitoro No.33 was awarded a K1.5 million contract to maintain parliamentary gardens, in breach of procurement procedure. The Kitoro tender was received 3 months AFTER the closing date. The tender submitted was only for twelve months but a three year contract was awarded. The original contract amount of K490,000 was K190,000 above the limit imposed by the Public Finance Management Act. The lowest bid for the project tender was just K12,000 per year. Kitoro was awarded contracts totalling K837,738 that did not go to public tender. The PAC recommended the contracts with Kitoro No.33 be terminated immediately and the officers responsible for the tendering, awarding and executing of the contract face ‘appropriate action’.
  • CCS Anvil, owned by Gudmundur Fridriksson, an Australian businessman (of Iceland origins) – who is also spearheading the infamous Paga Hill Estate, in a co-venture with the O’Neill government – was awarded a K375,779 to conduct consultancy work for the Parliamentary Service. This was K175,779 above the tender price, and exceeded the limit of Palo’s financial authority to the tune of K75,779. Extra-contractual payments were also made to CCS Anvil in the amount of K28,979.

It was also found that Palo went on a junket to Malaysia in May 2002 with a number of colleagues. During this trip they spent K100,000 in taxpayers money. PAC remarks “substantial amounts have been spent over a period of 5 years without any approval from the Minister”.

Well at least thanks to PM O’Neill, Palo will now have the political authority to waste millions of Kina of taxpayer’s money.

 

Fugitive’s citizenship queried in PNG

October 29, 2012 3 comments

Eoin Blackwell | AAP

Papua New Guinea’s opposition is demanding answers on why an Indonesian fugitive wanted by Interpol was granted citizenship in June.

Djoko Tjandra has been on the run from Indonesian authorities since 2009 after allegedly embezzling millions in bailout funds from the now defunct Bank of Bali.

Tjandra reportedly fled Indonesia a day before the nation’s supreme court sentenced the now 62 year old in absentia to two years jail.

Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill told Parliament on Friday he had been advised by the secretary to the Attorney General there were irregularities in the granting of citizenship to Mr Tjandra.

“I know there is a lot of speculation in the press that this guy is a fugitive and needs to be repatriated, (but) I have not received one single request from the Indonesian government,” Mr O’Neill told parliament on Friday.

“I am advised … there are some irregularities in respect to the issuing of citizenship.

“Once we have a detailed report from that investigation we will be in some position to make decisions.”

Mr O’Neill said he would raise the issue with Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono at a scheduled meeting in late November.

Opposition Leader Belden Namah urged the government to come clean on why Tjandra was granted citizenship in the first place.

“They have to declare why they are defensive of this particular person who is a fugitive to our nearest neighbour, whom we have a very good diplomatic and bilateral relationship with,” he said.

“What has happened to Djoko Tjandra’s Indonesian passport when we issued him the citizenship of this country? What criteria was used in awarding Mr Tjandra the citizenship of Papua New Guinea?”

According to PNG’s Department of Immigration website, a person can only apply for citizenship if they have lived “continuously in the country for at least eight years.”

An applicant must also make a full statement of assets, liabilities, investments, business interests and savings accounts both within and outside PNG indicating their values and locations.

Former foreign minister Ano Pala, who is reported in the local press to have overseen Mr Tjandra’s citizenship application, said the Interpol fugitive was being defamed.

“Raising serious allegations is beyond the dignity and decorum of this parliament,” he said.

“The person is a citizen and enjoys the same privileges that you should enjoy and every person in PNG should enjoy.”

PNG slammed over citizenship offer to ‘fugitive’

October 25, 2012 12 comments

From Radio Australia

Members of Parliament in Papua New Guinea have criticised the government for granting citizenship to an Indonesian fugitive.

Djoko Tjandra fled to PNG before Indonesia’s Supreme Court sentenced him to two years jail for fraud over the misuse of Bank Indonesia funds.

Despite being on the run, he was granted PNG citizenship earlier this year.

Governor Gary Juffa asked the Immigration Minister, Rimbink Pato, in parliament to review the decision.

“Why are we accommodating this person? It’s an embarrassment. He should be immediately deported,” Mr Juffa said.

Ano Pala, the former immigration minister who granted Mr Tjandra citizenship, tried to have the question ruled out of order but the Speaker allowed it.

Mr Pato says the proper processes have been followed.

Mr Tjandra is alleged to have been involved in a banking scandal in Indonesia where billions of dollars were allegedly laundered or transferred to his businesses and companies.

He reportedly left Indonesia on a chartered flight from Halim Perdanakusumah Airport in Jakarta to Port Moresby on June 10 2010, just one day before the Supreme Court issued a verdict in his case.

Ministers Duma and Palo visit Hagan with Indonesian fugitive

October 16, 2012 7 comments

Eyewitness account from Facebook

International Indonesian fugitive Joko Chaundra Soegerto clandestine arrival in Mount Hagen last weekend (Saturday) was witnessed by a few.

I just drove past the golf course at the back of Mount Hagen Airport and saw a white green stripe private jet parking there.

I quickly drove into the terminal area of the airport to check who it was and the people advised me that it was our good Minister William Duma with an Iraqi Oil tycoon. The people at Mount Hagen Airport were caught with surprise.

I waited and saw an Asian man with Hon William Duma and Hon Ano Pala getting onto the jet. It didn’t dawn on me until I checked PNG Exposed blog which shows the same picture.

Let alone the controversy surrounding the granting of citizenship to this fugitive, he is into many deals including the controversial rice project in the Central Province which is expected to be approved by the NEC some time this week.

I’m also wondering where the plane came from to land in Hagen. If it was from an overseas port, Mount Hagen Airport is not the port of entry and wondering why it landed there before heading off to Port Moresby.