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Posts Tagged ‘Commission of Inquiry’

Different charges for same legal jobs

September 29, 2014 3 comments

Lawyers responsible for over charging, fraud and corruption…

BY DONALD WILLIE  in Post Courier

THE State is paying some law firms three times more for similar cases, a lawyer involved in the Commission of Inquiry into procedures and processes of briefing out cases, said Counsel assisting the commission, John Griffin QC, told the Post-Courier that lawyers have been seen to be overcharging considerably.

On the other hand, a lot of lawyers have submitted bills which have not been paid and there have been complaints by the lawyers and the Government on the overall payment processes.

“The objective of this inquiry is to work out practices and procedures that are appropriate and bring the system in line with the way it works in other places,” Mr Griffin said. “Through this enquiry, the Government can get good legal services from private lawyers for an appropriate charge.”

He said this was to eliminate the problems of overpayment, fraud and corruption. Giving evidence yesterday, principal of Wagambie Lawyers, Michael Wagambie said on government cases briefed out in his firm, senior lawyers charged up to K700 an hour depending on experience and competency.

Mr Griffin alerted Mr Wagambie that there had been cases where lawyers had charged up to K2000 per hour. Asked if he thought such an amount was reasonable, Mr Wagambie said it was not. He recommended that a standard rate be set for payment.

“I think this is important because it should now set a standard rate for lawyers across the board, rather than just charging at will as and when they like to charge,” said Mr Wagambie.

Mr Wagambie also recommended that a committee be established under the direction of the Solicitor-General to assist in awarding brief outs to avoid being biased.

Where is Alois Jerewai’s SABL land grab report?

January 10, 2014 3 comments

From ACT NOW! 

In September 2013 Prime Minister Peter O’Neill presented to Parliament the reports from two of the three Commissioners appointed to investigated the SABL land grab.

The reports revealed a web of deceit, mismanagement and corruption surrounding the allocation of SABL leases to foreign companies which, in many cases, the companies are using as cover for illegal logging operations.

But the reports presented to Parliament cover only 42 of the 75 leases referred to the Commission of Inquiry. The findings on the other 33 leases are contained in the report of Alois Jerewai which, 4 months later, has still not been released.

Many of the leases investigated by Jerewai are in East and West New Britain, a stronghold of Malaysian logging giant Rimbunan Hijau.

The Prime Minister, the Commission of Inquiry and Mr Jerewai are all failing the people of the PNG if they do not release the report.

PM’s Chief of Staff in K3.7 million Finance Dept fraud says Commission of Inquiry

May 29, 2013 2 comments

Prime Minister Peter O’Neill likes to talk tough about cracking down on corruption but his own Chief of Staff was recommended for prosecution in the Finance Department Commission of Inquiry report for fraudulently claiming K3.7 million as part of the Paraka Scams which have cost PNG hundreds of million…

 

Isaac Lupari, aided by Gelu and Paraka lawyers, stole K3.7 million

First published May 31, 2010

Former Ambassador to the European Union, Departmental Head and Consultant to the Prime Minister, Isaac Lupari stole K3.7 million from the people of PNG through false claims for breach of contract according to the findings of the Commission of Inquiry into the Finance Department.

The false claims were drafted and submitted by Guguna Garo, of Paul Paraka lawyers, and were illegally settled by the then Solicitor General, Zachary Gelu. In addition to the K3.7 million, a further K800,000 was paid to Paul Paraka lawyers from public funds for their role in facilitating the fraud.

The Commission of Inquiry has recommended Isaac Lupari, Zacchary Gelu and Guguna Garo all be investigated by the police with a view to prosecution for fraud and conspiracy.

From 1997 through to 2009, Isaac Lupari was employed by the State in a series of senior positions including Secretary Finance, Secretary Defence, Secretary Works, Special Advisor to the Prime Minister, Michael Somare, Secretary Transport, Ambassador to the European Union and Chief Secretary. In these positions Lupari was handsomely rewarded, receiving, for example K1,294,133 in the four-and-a-half year period between September 1997 and April 2002

But being paid over K270,000 a year wasn’t enough it seems because in December 2001 Lupari sued the State for breach of four separate employment contracts. Lupari claimed he had successively been unlawfully terminated as Secretary Finance, Defence, Personnel Management and Transport and was entitled to claim the balance of all pay and entitlements for the unexpired period of all four contracts. These claims were fraudulent as Mr. Lupari never suffered any loss of pay and entitlements and was employed by the State for the whole time that he claimed for and beyond.

However, Lupari’s initial legal claims were never pursued as when Somare was elected PM in 2002, Lupari agreed to withdraw them as part of the deal that saw him appointed as Ambassador to the EU. Lupari though did not honour that agreement and five months later, in January 2003, Paul Paraka lawyers resubmitted the four claims on behalf of their client.

Less than two months after the four claims were filed with the Court they were approved for settlement by Solicitor General Zachary Gelu. Gelu agreed to settle the claims despite clear instructions from the Department of Personnel Management that the claims were unlawful, without merit and should be vigorously defended.

Gelu personally signed the Deed of Settlement awarding Lupari K3,703,461.31 and at the same time approved the payment to Paul Paraka lawyers of an additional K800,000 for their costs (a hugely inflated figure given the claims had only been issued two months earlier).

Lupari’s illegal claims were drafted and filed by Guguna Garo of Paraka lawyers. The Commission found that Mr Garo must have known that at least one of the claims he submitted was baseless and that in all four cases he would have known Mr Lupari had suffered no loss. The Commission found Mr Garu knowingly misled the court from the very start.

Read the Commission report on Issac Lupari  (220KB)

Namah alleges fraudulent payment of K71.8 million to Paul Paraka Lawyers

May 22, 2013 6 comments

Opposition Leader Belden Namah alleges Paul Paraka lawyers has continued to fraudulently claim millions of Kina from the State since the Finance Department Commission of Inquiry uncovered Paraka’s scam. Namah says the latest payments, totalling K71 million, were paid between Feb. 2012 and May this year…

Belden Namah MP

Background

Paul Paraka Lawyers has been paid tens of millions of Kina between 2001 and 2006 under a retainer agreement with the Department of Attorney General for the law firm to defend the state against claims made against the state.  Large amounts of money paid to this law firm, and similar payments to others by the Department of Finance, raised eye brows in Waigani, which  resulted in the then Somare Government setting up a Commission of Inquiry, known as the Finance Inquiry.

The Finance Inquiry concluded its inquiry and presented a report to the then Prime Minister, the Right Hon Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare. As the Prime Minister prepared to table the report in Parliament, Paul Paraka Lawyers flew all the way into Alotau from Port Moresby to obtain a National Court Order (ex parte) restraining the Prime Minister from tabling the report in Parliament.

The order, which was a temporary order and returnable for substantive hearing, has never been heard of to this day and is collecting dust in the National and Supreme Court Registry. The Registrar’s office and the office of the Attorney General owe an explanation on what became of this case as the Finance Inquiry not only cost the people of Papua New Guinea K27 million but the report contains findings on how millions of public funds went missing and who improperly benefited out of these public funds.

The blatant neglect of duty and failure to prosecute the matter and have it discharged has resulted in the COI report, also, collecting dust somewhere in the Offices of the Prime Minister.

History would have it that this is the first time in Papua New Guinea that a Commission of Inquiry report, costing tax payers millions of Kina to produce, has been suppressed by any one, from being tabled in Parliament and made available for public consumption.

[The Commission of Inquiry Report can be accessed here: https://pngexposed.wordpress.com/2010/08/17/the-full-finance-department-commission-of-inquiry-report/ ]

Papua New Guineans have been deliberately, or by neglect of duty, denied their right to know whether hundreds of millions of their monies paid to Paul Paraka Lawyers and others by the Department of Finance, were legitimate payments.

Further to the above, the Hon. Bire Kimisopa, Member for Goroka upon becoming the Minister for Justice, commissioned in 2006, a Departmental Inquiry into “Brief-Out” of cases by the Attorney General’s Office. The inquiry was chaired by the former Chief Justice, Sir Arnold Amet, and the now Minister for Foreign Affairs, Hon Rimbink Pato was a member of the inquiry team.

Upon receipt of the inquiry report in late 2006, the Hon. Bire Kimisopa terminated the retainer contract with Paul Paraka Lawyers and all case files were returned to the Attorney General’s Office.

The Law Firm then took the State to Court claiming outstanding bills of around K6 million for the entire contract period. The National Court, in proceeding OS 876, decided in favour of Paraka Lawyers and ordered the state to pay a little over K6 million.

The state appealed the decision of the National Court, disputing among others, the amount awarded. Pending the hearing of the appeal, the state successfully obtained from the Supreme Court a stay order restraining the payment of any state funds against the National Court Order to Paul Paraka Lawyers. The stay order was issued through Supreme Court proceeding number; SCM 3 of 2007 which is current and on foot and has never been discharged.

The Honourable Davies Steven, now Minister for Civil Aviation was the lawyer acting for the state in both the National and Supreme Court proceedings and can attest to this fact.

This means that Paraka Lawyers is not entitled to any payment at all from the state. No new legal work has been given by the state to Paul Paraka Lawyers since 2007 to warrant any payment.

Paul Paraka Lawyers has been providing pro bono legal services to private citizens for some time now. However, this work is not authorized or contracted by the state and remains free legal services provided to people at the firm’s own accord. It is not entitled to make any claims against the state.

This is confirmed by the fact that at least three senior Judges of the National and Supreme Courts and the Attorney General, Honourable Kerenga Kua have spoken out against the law firm’s so called pro bono legal services as unconstitutional and without legal foundation.

Despite the fact that the Commission of Inquiry report on the missing millions from the Finance Department is yet to be made public, and despite the fact that the retainer agreement between the Attorney Generals Department and Paul Paraka Lawyers ceased or terminated in late 2006, and despite a current and effective Supreme Court Order barring any payment of funds to Paraka Lawyers, millions of Kina has continuously been paid to Paraka Lawyers since 2007 up to the present time.

No information is available on how much has illegally been paid to Paraka Lawyers between 2007 and 2012.

However, between February 2012 and up to May this year 2013, a staggering K71.8 million has been paid by the Department of Finance to Paul Paraka Lawyers. This indeed is a huge amount of public money going into a single Law Firm in just one year.

These payments are nothing but daylight robbery of the people of Papua New Guinea by various individuals colluding with Paul Paraka Lawyers to defraud the Independent State of Papua New Guinea of its monies.

People in the Departments of Attorney General and Finance, and the National and Supreme Court Registry and other public and private organizations, including the media, have been colluding and conniving with Paul Paraka Lawyers and facilitating the fraud and or preventing the fraud from being exposed and dealt with by the law.

On 17 February 2012, the first batch totalling K30 million was paid indirectly to Paraka Lawyers through a web of law firms and a company. The second batch of K14 million was paid on 2nd November 2012. The third payment of K13.8 million was made on 21 December 2012 The fourth batch of K6 million was paid on 13 March 2013 and the latest payment is an amount of K8 million paid on 6 May 2013. The grand total to date is K71.8 million and there is information that a fresh batch of claims, has been or is about to be lodged with the Department of Finance.

It is to be noted that the K14 million paid in November 2013 and the K13 million paid in December 2013 was from trust accounts as these payments were unbudgeted for.

Paul Paraka Lawyers have not been given any work by state and has not done any work for the state since 2007 and it is amazing how such a massive K71 million could be given away for free to this firm.

Mr Paraka has solicited and received these funds through false pretence and with intention to defraud the state.

Mr Paraka, the principal of Paul Paraka Lawyers being a lawyer and knowing full well of the existence of the Supreme Court Order barring his firm of being paid any money from his claim for outstanding bills, used a web of law firms and a company to be paid the first K30 million to avoid violation of the current Supreme Court Order.

At Mr Paraka’s instruction to the Finance Department, the K30 million was broken up and paid to the recipient conduit law firms and a company in the following manner,

1. Paul Othas Lawyers K6, 000.000

2. Harvey Nii Lawyers K6, 000,000

3. Sino & Company K6, 000,000

4. Jack Kilipi Lawyers K6, 000,000

5. PKP Nominees Ltd K6, 000,000

Total                             K30,000,000

Upon presentation of the cheques in the above amounts by the conduit recipients at the Bank of South Pacific, it appears the Bank was reluctant to allow deposits and subsequent transactions on the funds. However, with the intervention of two senior officers of the Department of Finance namely, Messrs Melton Bogege (Financial Controller) and Yeme Kaivila (Senior Accountant) the cheques were cleared. The two officers co-signed a letter dated 20 February which read in part, (quote):

“The payments were based on a valid Court Order and appropriate audit process was carried out and clearance from the Solicitor General.  The Department of Finance had no right to question such authority, and facilitated the payment on the endorsement and approval of the Secretary for Finance”.

The two officers deliberately lied and mislead the Bank, in particular the assertion that the payments were based on a valid court order and that the Solicitor General’s Office had cleared the payments.

Mr Paraka is also believed to have written numerous letters justifying the payments and even gone to the extent of issuing veil threats to BSP staff if they refused to clear the cheques.

Eventually, BSP allowed the cheques to be cleared. The cash from the funds are believed to have been remitted back to Paul Paraka Lawyers by the recipient conduit firms, minus their commissions.

Apart from the K30 million paid using conduit firms, all the other payments amounting K41 million have been made directly to Paul Paraka Lawyers.

It is believed that the decision by Mr Paraka to have later payments made direct to his firm is because the Bank of South Pacific has warned that it will not clear any more funds channelled through conduit firms.

The Solicitor General’s Office, upon learning of the above payments by the Finance Department filed a complaint with Task Force Sweep and the National Fraud and Anti-Corruption Squad to investigate this massive fraud. When investigations commenced and a search warrant was obtained to search and obtain documents at BSP, Paul Paraka Lawyers ran to the District Court and filed an application to set aside the search warrant with a view to concealing the whole saga.

Documents obtained from the District Court Registry at Waigani, confirm that Mr Paul Paraka has filed an application to set aside the search warrants, and further, for a permanent restraining order to restrain any investigations into these allegations.

In his affidavit in support of the application, Mr Paraka admits receiving those funds but for work undertaken in the past.  He deposes in his affidavit that there is no stay order and lists a number of Court orders.

The orders, which Mr Paraka refers to were consolidated in Os 876 of 2006 and was superseded by the Supreme Court decision in SCM 3 of 2007 which stayed the orders and the entire proceedings of OS 876.

Mr Paraka has lied on oath by making false and misleading statements that he was entitled to receive the payments, when clearly, he or his firm is not. 

Numerous visits and attempts are made to the Fraud and Anti-Corruption Squad and Task Force Sweep authorities investigating this matter to drop the investigations.  The case officers are believed to have been threatened and intimidated.

Questions for the Attorney General

Honourable Minister and Attorney General; The Government has been preaching about fighting corruption to the core, which has been welcomed by the people of Papua New Guinea and indeed, those of us on this side of the House.

High on the O’Neill-Dion Governments agenda would have to be fighting white collar criminals who continuously steal millions and millions of Public Funds. Our people are dying or suffering every day as a result of lack of basic services, simply because a very few selfish and greedy white collar criminals steal the money, that otherwise would have been used, to meet their needs.

The questions I am about to ask you relate to a massive K71 million fraud involving a major Law Firm. The questions are as follows;

  1. Can the Minister confirm or deny that a law firm called Paul Paraka Lawyers has any current and valid contract or retainer agreement with the Independent State of Papua New Guinea for legal services?
  1. Can the Minister confirm or deny that a retainer agreement signed in 2001 with Paul Paraka Lawyers was terminated in late 2006 by none other than the Honourable Bire Kimisopa, the Member for Goroka, then Minister for Justice, following an investigation into ‘Out of Court Settlements’ handled by this law firm?
  1. Can the Minister confirm or deny that Paul Paraka Lawyers, upon termination of the retainer agreement by the Hon Kimisopa, took the state to court, claiming a little over K6 million as outstanding bills for the contract period, that is, from 2001 to 2006?
  1. Can the Minister confirm or deny that the National Court awarded the claim of K6 million by Paraka Lawyers in Os 876 of 2006?
  1. Can the Minister confirm or deny, that the ‘Orders’ of the National Court obtained by Paraka Lawyers in OS 876 and the ‘Entire Proceedings’, in OS 876 were stayed by the Supreme Court in proceedings SCM 03  of 2007, on application by the state?
  1.  If the answer to Q5 is in the affirmative, can the Minister then confirm that Paul Paraka Lawyers is not entitled to be paid any monies against his claims unless the Supreme Court Orders are discharged or the substantive appeal is determined?
  1. If the answer to Q6 is in the affirmative, is the Minister aware that a massive K71 million has been paid to Paul Paraka Lawyers between February 2012 and May 2013 by the Department of Finance allegedly for outstanding bills or court orders?

For your convenience, the schedule of payments is as follows;

Feb 17/ 2012           K30, 000,000

Nov 02 /2012           K13, 800,000

Dec 21 /2012            K14, 000,000

Mar 13 /2013            K06, 000,000

May 6 /2013              K08, 000,000

  1. Can the Minister inform the Parliament and the people of Papua New Guinea if the pay out of this huge amount of public money has been sanctioned or cleared by the Solicitor General or your office?
  1.  If the answer is in the negative, will the Minister take immediate steps to have this DAYLIGHT ROBBERY of the people of Papua New Guinea dealt with swiftly by the Fraud Squad and Task Force Sweep and those who have schemed and facilitated and or benefited from this massive fraud brought to justice?
  1. As the Attorney General, will you refer the Principal of Paul Paraka Lawyers to the PNG Law Society to be dealt with by the Lawyers Statutory Committee for what is undoubtedly, a scandalous and unethical conduct by a very senior lawyer?
  1. Will you assure this Parliament that you will also pursue contempt proceedings against all those concerned for violating the Supreme Court Order SCM 3 of 2007, which stayed payment of any public funds to Paul Paraka Lawyers?
  1.  Honourable Minister, three senior Judges of the National and Supreme Courts and your self have come out stating that a so called pro bono legal aid service provided to the public by this particular law firm is unconstitutional. Could you confirm therefore, that Paul Paraka Lawyers is not entitled to any payment by the state in consideration of its pro bono legal aid service?
  1. Mr Minister, if the Solicitor General’s or your Office has not cleared and authorized the Department of Finance to pay K71.8 million to Paul Paraka Lawyers, then can you inform this Parliament who in Government authorized such a hefty and corrupt payment and for what?
  1. Finally, Mr Minister, will you inform this Parliament as to what became of the Finance Commission of Inquiry which cost the tax payers K27 million but was suppressed by this same law firm from being tabled in this Parliament by taking out a preventive Order through the National Court? The order was a temporary order and returnable for substantive hearing but is never heard of, to this day!

Police attack landowners for protesting against SABL land grab

October 8, 2011 1 comment

Reports are emerging that young men in Rovang village, Pomio, East New Britain, have been beaten by police with fan belts and tree branches for opposing logging under a Special Purpose Business and Agriculture Lease that covers Pomata and Ralopal.

Police are said to have been moving systematically village by village threatening land owners who oppose the project.

On October 6, police raided Tontongpal a day after the Commission of Inquiry in SABLs raised issues regarding the Pomata and Ralopal SABL and agreed to include trips to the area in the CoI. The landowner company representatives who were present at the hearing were not happy about the issues raised by the CoI.

Reports are that the police and landowner company representatives planned to travel on to Mu and Kaiton villages looking for the two plantiffs in a legal case against the company.

Provincial Police apparently know nothing of the raids and will look into where these police have come from.

It is also alleged Tropic Air aircraft, operated by notorious Malaysian logging company Rimbunan Hijau, flew the police into Palmalmal yesterday from Kokopo. Yet Kokopo police are not aware of this.

Rimbunan Hijau has been operating logging projects in East New Britain for over 15 years.