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Posts Tagged ‘Eremas Wartoto’

Judge recommends MP’s prosecution for role in fraud

June 25, 2017 1 comment

MP Joseph Lelang is the latest to be implicated in the scandals surrounding Eremas Wartoto

MP Joseph Lelang has already been the subject of a Leadership Tribunal, where he pleaded guilty to failing to file his annual statements. He has also been recommended for prosecution by the Task Force Sweep, now the National Court is recommending his prosecution…

Source: Radio New Zealand

A Papua New Guinea court has recommended the prosecution of an MP for his role in facilitating a multi-million dollar fraud.

Eremas Wartoto was sentenced to 10 years in jail on Friday. The sentencing judge has recommended a MP, Joseph Lelang, also be prosecuted for his role in the fraud. 

On Friday, the National Court sentenced a businessman, Eremas Wartoto, to 10 years in prison after he misused US$2 million of public funds paid to his transport company for the renovation of a high school.

In his judgement, Justice George Manuhu said the then-public servant and now MP, Joseph Lelang, and another public servant Brian Kimmins, lied to the court in giving evidence against Wartoto.

Justice Manuhu found the pair had a role in facilitating the payments to Wartoto’s company for which he said they should be prosecuted.

If Mr Lelang is prosecuted, he would not be the first MP ensnared by Eremas Wartoto’s business dealings.

Wartoto rose to prominence in 2013 when a former planning minister, Paul Tiensten, was jailed for misappropriating US$3.6 million to Wartoto and his other company, Travel Air.

Important progress for anti-corruption campaign: Tiensten found guilty

November 23, 2013 4 comments

Former PNG minister Paul Tiensten guilty of misappropriation of grant to kickstart Travel Air

By Liam Fox on ABC 

Papua New Guinea’s former planning minister has been found guilty of misappropriation over a $4 million grant to a controversial businessman.

In 2011 Paul Tiensten directed the grant be given to Travel Air and its owner Eremas Wartoto.

Today the country’s national court ruled that amounted to misappropriation because the money was earmarked for rural freight subsidies and instead was effectively used as seed capital to get the airline up and running.

Judge Gibbs Salika said Tiensten had used his “political muscle” to direct his officials to facilitate the grant and ignore proper assessment procedures.

Tiensten was found not guilty of a charge of conspiracy to defraud.

He was released on bail until sentencing early next year.

Australia ignored PNG request to bar fraudster

August 16, 2013 Leave a comment

By Richard Baker, Nick McKenzie in the Brisbane Times

Australia allowed one of Papua New Guinea’s most wanted men to enter the country on a 457 visa despite a PNG government request he be barred, diplomatic cables reveal.

The decision to allow accused fraudster Eremas Wartoto to stay in Australia and avoid prosecution prompted Australia’s High Commissioner in Port Moresby, Deborah Stokes, to declare the case could be used to ”prove that Australia is a haven for the proceeds of crime from PNG”.

The PNG government’s request to ”bar businessman from travelling to Australia” was documented in a cable sent by the Australian High Commission to Canberra on August 24, 2011.

At that time, Mr Wartoto, a politically connected businessman, had been arrested in PNG as part of a fraud inquiry into misappropriation of taxpayer funds involving allegedly corrupt politicians and bureaucrats.

Despite the PNG request, Mr Wartoto – who is being represented by a law firm owned by PNG’s foreign minister – was granted entry to Australia on a 457 visa in September 2011. His skilled worker visa was issued after the Cairns car hire company he owns sponsored him on the basis there was a shortage of ”general corporate managers” in the area.

However, despite knowing he was residing in Australia to avoid prosecution, the federal government made no effort to force Mr Wartoto to return to PNG to face charges.

Fairfax Media revealed in May Mr Wartoto had been able to use his visa to return to Australia after regular trips around Asia. He made these trips despite his lawyers lodging medical certificates in PNG’s National Court stating he was too ill to return home.

Frustrated anti-corruption investigators and police in PNG believe Mr Wartoto’s case is a prime example of Australia failing to act on suspected corrupt politicians, officials and businessmen using Australian banks and real estate markets to hide ill-gotten gains.

The May revelation that Mr Wartoto was being sheltered in Cairns was embarrassing for the Labor government, which was negotiating the settlement of asylum seekers with PNG on Manus Island and had launched a crackdown on foreign workers using 457 visas in the belief they were taking jobs from Australians.

Shortly after Fairfax Media revealed Mr Wartoto’s presence in Australia, Senator Carr cancelled Mr Wartoto’s visa using laws that allow the foreign minister to revoke visas belonging to people deemed to pose ”a risk to the health, safety or good order of the Australian community”.

Much of the information in declassified diplomatic cables obtained by Fairfax Media under Freedom of Information laws has been redacted by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade on the basis Australia’s international relations could be harmed.

Wartoto faces more fraud charges

May 31, 2013 Leave a comment

Radio New Zealand

Papua New Guinea businessman, Eremas Wartoto, has been charged with additional fraud offences – this time for allegedly misusing funds intended to rehabilitate agricultural plantations.

The latest charges brought by the corruption busting group, the Investigative Task Force Sweep, involve missing funds of six million US dollars..

Don Wiseman has more:

“In charges brought to date Mr Wartoto has allegedly misappropriated more than 16 million US dollars. He was earlier charged with diverting to his own use, funds intended as incentives for an airline operation and for the rehabilitation of a high school. Task Force Sweep’s Sam Koim says the alleged agricultural frauds are glaring examples of paper farmers and front companies feeding from the funds appropriated for the National Agricultural Development Project. He says the government’s intentions may have been genuine, but greed, lack of management and monitoring, incompetence and political patronage resulted in millions of kina being stolen and wasted. Mr Wartoto, who had evaded authorities by fleeing to Cairns in Australia, returned to the country earlier this month and was arrested last week in Kimbe. He is out on bail. More charges are expected.”

Wartoto visa decision leaves too many qiestions

May 20, 2013 5 comments

pkay

WE cannot say, with any sigh of relief, “at long last” because the invoking of 457 by Minister Carr to render Wartoto a fugitive playing hide and seek between Australia and PNG doesn’t at all mean there aren’t other similar scoundrels enjoying the fruits of their corrupt lifestyle still in Australia; or that others will not emerge and hide under the cover of 457 in the future.

WE cannot also say, with any sense of satisfaction, “it’s about time” because Wartoto and his associates had the luxury of time to further their interests afield such as in the Asian and Pacific countries mentioned.

Crime boss?? Is this reference about how he must have followers and associates in a crime syndicate of which he is the nominal or real main man? Or is it a reference to how much he has obtained and amassed from the national coffers and how he has evaded and fooled authorities with his errands between PNG and Australia. Wartoto must have associates and we have read in the past that the Member for Pomio as Minister for National Planning was a close and beneficial associate from projects for which tenders were corruptly awarded or approved. Kerevat National High School comes to mind. And the advance of some K30 million (?) to start up the Wartoto airline (Mangki Ples???) is another in which Member for Pomio had both his hands in.

Now, in more recent times, the present Minister for Foreign Affair’s has been mentioned in the print media, by name. Why should, or how would, any decision on Wartoto’s 457 status be linked to the Manus detention centre? Many PNGn’s cannot buy the argument that the inevitable was delayed “because of the Gillard government’s desire not to upset PNG government members who support the Manus Island asylum seeker detention centre.” The fact is Wartoto is not from Manus and does not own any of the land where the detention centre is on Manus. THE only reason for the delay or reprieve for Wartoto by Australia may be because of his links to and with Minister Pato. Wartoto was thrown in as a red herring by linking him to the negotiations on the Manus site.

It’d be interesting to find out if during his business adventure to fill the yawning gap in Australia for corporate managers whether Mr Wartoto has not short-changed customers/clients or left bad debts with other businesses in Cairns.

If Mr Wartoto is or was ”a risk to the health, safety or good order of the Australian community” what are we supposed to make of him in PNG? May be, a menace like a bull let loose by politicians in a candy shop that has no regard to anybody or anything, causing untold damage to the reputation of the country, his family and the community he comes from in ENB!

Just watch Rimbink Pato’s next act.

Carr cancels 457 visa of PNG’s ‘most wanted’ man

May 18, 2013 4 comments

By Nick McKenzie, Richard Baker in The Age

Australia’s Foreign Minister Bob Carr has used his special powers to cancel the 457 visa issued by the Gillard government to an alleged crime boss wanted in Papua New Guinea over the theft of $30 million.

Senator Carr’s decision to revoke the visa of Eremas Wartoto comes a week after Fairfax revealed that the powerful PNG businessman – accused of being one of PNG’s most corrupt figures by anti-graft authorities – was using his 457 visa to avoid arrest and prosecution. Sources in PNG confirmed that Mr Wartoto and his immediate family members in Queensland were contacted by immigration authorities late this week and told that the federal government was cancelling their visas.

Mr Wartoto’s visa has been cancelled by Senator Carr using laws that allow the Foreign Minister to revoke a 457 on the basis that the holder poses ”a risk to the health, safety or good order of the Australian community”.

But some senior government sources in PNG are furious that the Gillard government did not act sooner to expel Mr Wartoto, who has been living in Australia since he was charged in absentia in August 2011 with serious corruption offences.

The visa allowed Mr Wartoto to live in Cairns and fly in and out of Australia to several Asian countries despite being the most wanted man in PNG.

Mr Wartoto fled Australia to PNG last week after Fairfax tried to photograph him in Queensland. He remained on the run in PNG until Friday, when anti-corruption investigators tracked him to the port town of Kimbe and arrested him.

Mr Wartoto obtained a 457 visa in July 2011 – the foreign skilled worker visa at the centre of a Gillard government crackdown – after learning PNG authorities planned to charge him in August 2011.

Since then he has claimed to be too ill to face trial in Port Moresby but travel records reveal he has travelled to Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Fiji and the Solomon Islands during the past two years and has been able to return to live in Australia each time thanks to his 457 visa.

A spokesman for Senator Carr said: ”Given the legal issues … it was not possible to take action until now.”

PNG government sources have suggested Mr Wartoto’s visa was not cancelled earlier because of the Gillard government’s desire not to upset PNG government members who support the Manus Island asylum seeker detention centre.

Mr Wartoto is linked to powerful PNG politicians, including Foreign Minister Rimbink Pato.

Mr Wartoto obtained his 457 visa after a Cairns car hire company he owns sponsored him on the basis there was a shortage of ”general corporate managers” in the area.

PNG theft accused still has 457 visa

May 16, 2013 Leave a comment

BY CLEO FRASER from
 AAP

A PAPUA New Guinea businessman accused of misusing millions of dollars of government funds in his home country still holds a 457 visa and is free to return to Australia.

Eremas Wartoto came to live in Cairns in 2011 after he was granted the temporary permit.

He reportedly obtained the visa, a type which is at the centre of a federal government crackdown over claimed rorting of the system, for a car hire company he owns because there was a shortage of general corporate managers in the area.

It is understood he left Australia last week after media reports that he was wanted in PNG.

Following a request by the PNG National Court, a Queensland judge ordered the seizure of some of his Australian assets earlier this week.

They included several rental properties, vehicles at a car rental agency of which Wartoto is the director and a number of bank accounts.

PNG Director of Crimes Peter Guiness told AAP that Wartoto has been charged with misappropriation of funds.

He was granted permission to return to Australia to undergo medical treatment last year, he says.

Wartoto allegedly misused government funds totalling 30 million kina (A$13.6 million), Mr Guiness said.

He was given the funds for a school development and as a subsidy to help start an airline.

He said PNG police were not looking for Wartoto as he was granted bail and is not due to appear in court until later this year.

He didn’t know whether Wartoto was back in PNG or in Australia.

A Department of Immigration spokesman says Wartoto still holds a valid 457 visa.

“The client has met the conditions of the visa since it was granted in 2011,” he told AAP.

“The fact that he may be wanted by PNG is a matter for the PNG government and any request for assistance from Australia would be a matter for the relevant authorities.”

A spokesman for Foreign Minister Bob Carr said foreign affairs staff in Canberra had discussed Mr Wartoto’s case with officials from the Immigration Department. He would not comment further.

An employee at Wartoto’s car rental firm in Cairns, which is still operating, says he hasn’t seen his boss for a few weeks.

He described Wartoto as a “very nice man” who owns “a lot” of businesses in PNG.

PNG’s The National newspaper reported in December last year that Wartoto had made a PNG corruption task force watch list.