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UNDP head denies endorsing Paga Hill Development Company evictions

June 12, 2017 Leave a comment

Settlers moved from the foreshore at Paga Hill to the inland site of Gerehu, where they live in appalling conditions.  Photo: Aid Watch

Port Moresby settlers evicted to make way for Australian-backed development ‘abandoned’

Source: Heath Aston in Sydney Morning Herald

A majority of settlers evicted from a headland shanty town in Port Moresby to make way for a gated tourism and casino precinct backed by Australian property developers have been “simply abandoned”, with some now sleeping rough, according to human rights investigators.

Two Australian-run companies involved in moving squatters from waterfront Paga Hill and its foreshore between 2012 and 2014 dispute the numbers of people affected, but charities Aid Watch and Jubilee Australia claim 2000 of an estimated 3000 squatters were given no resettlement and in many cases no compensation, and up to 500 of those could be living on the streets of the capital.

They have also raised questions about the claimed success of resettlement programs for those relocated to make way for a gated waterfront estate that the PNG government has earmarked as a likely setting for the 2018 APEC conference of world leaders.

Australia is spending about $100 million to support the Port Moresby APEC summit, with a particular focus on security through the ongoing presence of the Australian Federal Police in PNG.

The brochure for the Paga Hill development showing the headland that has been cleared for development. Photo: Paga Hill Development Company

Former prime minister Tony Abbott said APEC would be “an important coming of age for PNG”.

Australian mining company Oil Search is building a floating reception centre to be called APEC Haus at the Paga Hill headland.

Human rights lawyer Brynn O’Brien, who is writing a report for Jubilee and Aid Watch, said Australia had a responsibility to the people of Paga Hill if it was backing the APEC meeting with public money.

“The Australian government should make a commitment not to support any event held on land associated with human rights violations until people have been resettled,” she told Fairfax Media.

Six Mile, another site were people were moved to. Photo: Aid Watch

“The majority of people were simply abandoned and a significant proportion of those, perhaps a quarter, are living under bridges, under buildings.”

The evictions, conducted with the support of armed PNG police, were raised at a recent senate estimates hearing where the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s first assistant secretary, Pacific division, Daniel Sloper, said it was not Australia’s responsibility.

Another humpy at Gerehu. Photo: Aid Watch

“Certainly there have been areas and villages that have moved on. I am not denying that at all,” he said.

“My only point was that was a responsibility of the PNG government rather than a responsibility of the Australian government.”

Paga Hill was once the focal point of Australia’s World War II defence of Port Moresby. The thousands of settlers who moved there in the decades after 1945 became known as “bunker people” for their use of abandoned wartime fortifications to create makeshift homes.

The Paga Hill Development Company is run by Icelandic-Australian businessman Gudmundur “Gummi” Fridriksson, a former chief executive of Noel Pearson’s Cape York Institute.

Last year Fairfax Media revealed a legal wrangle in which one PNG’s most revered former politicians, Carol Kidu, and the Paga Hill Development Company sought to block the release of an Australian documentary, The Opposition, about local resistance to the evictions.

Ms O’Brien interviewed people who were moved from the foreshore by Townsville-based civil contractors Curtain Bros, with the support of PNG’s National Capital District Commission to an area called Gerehu on the outskirts of Port Moresby.

She found at least 600 people living in homes made from “pieces of wood, sticks, fibro, sheet metal, tarpaulins” and without power or running water.

“At Gerehu lots of the adults and children are noticeably thin even by PNG standards, they appear malnourished. At Paga Hill their main source of protein was fish caught from the sea but this site is inland with no reliable public transport” she said.

Curtain Bros did not return calls.

At another resettlement site, known as Six Mile, the original facilities built by PHDC in 2014 are badly run down. The company offered resettlement of cash compensation for people living on the hill rather than those living on the foreshore and in other areas.

Of the estimated 400 people at Six Mile, according to Ms O’Brien, most remain in temporary accommodation – tents under a steel shed roof – because they can’t afford to enter into the “land use agreements” that were offered.

A Paga Hill Development Company spokesman said:

“PHDC cannot be held responsible for the relocation site almost three years after it was formally handed over in October 2014 to UN acclaim.”

The UN’s support for the project is in dispute.

Roy Trivedy, the United Nations’ resident co-ordinator in PNG, said he attended one meeting where he was impressed with written plans for the resettlement but has not been involved in anything to do with Paga Hill since.

“I’ve asked the company to stop using my name to endorse something I haven’t seen,” he said.

Legal battles over, controversial doco The Opposition finally gets home debut

May 1, 2017 1 comment

It began as a student film project but soon morphed into something much larger – including an unexpected and bruising legal battle.

Karl Quinn | Sydney Morning Herald | 29 April 2017

Dame Carol Kidu didn’t recognise the young Australian woman who said she wanted to make a film about her life in New Guinean politics in 2012, even though they’d shared breakfast a few years before that. But she has no trouble remembering Hollie Fifer now. It’s amazing how an ugly legal battle can jog the memory. 

Fifer, who is 28, first met Dame Carol with her mother Dimity, a former CEO of Australian Volunteers International, in 2008. By the time the then-AFTRS student pitched her film idea, PNG was in political turmoil, with Michael Somare and Peter O’Neill both claiming to be the legitimate prime minister of the country. Dame Carol broke the deadlock by stepping away from Somare’s party to become leader of a one-woman opposition. 

Hollie Fifer, director of the controversial PNG documentary The Opposition, fought a long battle to screen the film. Photo: Arsineh Houspian

To Fifer, “it seemed like a great story”, even if she also suspected “I’d arrived too late” to record it at its best.

But as they were filming an interview in Port Moresby in May 2012, Dame Carol received a phone call: a shanty settlement on Paga Hill, near the centre of town, was being bulldozed, its 3000 inhabitants were about to be scattered to the winds, and the developer responsible was Australian.

In that moment, a different film was born.

“She said, ‘Do you want to come’, and I didn’t know what to expect but I said ‘yeah’,” Fifer says. “Then this entire scene happened that completely changed everything.”

As Dame Carol strode about Paga Hill trying to convince police to stop what was going on, Fifer kept her camera rolling. Here was a real-life David v Goliath story, with the country’s only female parliamentarian as the unlikely hero of the people. Or so it seemed.

Over the course of the film’s evolution, Dame Carol’s role changed massively. She left the Parliament. She set up a consultancy, and was hired by the Paga Hill Development Corporation, on a contract of $178,000 for three months’ work. And she became determined to prevent Fifer’s footage of her from ever seeing the light of day.

Dame Carol wasn’t the main character in Fifer’s film, but she was a key player, featuring in about 20 minutes of it. In March 2016, she launched legal action in the Supreme Court of NSW demanding those scenes be redacted. She claimed she had never consented to being in such a documentary. The release she signed was merely for a student film, not for something that might be shown commercially. She claimed the film misrepresented her. 

Dame Carol Kidu argues the point with police at Paga Hill in May 2012, as seen in The Opposition. Photo: supplied

Fifer’s film was set to debut at the prestigious Hot Docs festival in Toronto in May 2016. On April 22, Dame Carol was granted a temporary injunction against the inclusion of the footage in which she appeared.

Fifer had a week and a half to recut her film. Where Dame Carol had been, the screen was now black, with a narration read by actress Sarah Snook explaining what was happening, and why. But the day before she was due to fly to Toronto, Fifer was back in court, being ordered to make more tweaks.

PNG land rights activist Joseph Moses (foreground) in a scene from the film. Photo: Supplied

“The hard drive was still warm when I took it to the airport the next morning,” she says.

“It was literally a hot doc. We hadn’t even seen it by the time we screened it. My producer, Rebecca Barry, and I were just looking at each other thinking, ‘I hope this works’.”

Dame Carol Kidu went from opposing the demolition of houses at Paga Hill to working as a consultant for the developer. Photo: Melissa Adams

It did, and in June, the court ruled against Dame Carol’s application for permanent redaction of the footage in which she appeared.

Now, finally, The Opposition is to have its full Australian premiere, on the opening night of the Human Rights Arts and Film Festival.

Fifer (centre) leaves the Sydney Law Courts on April 14, 2016. She had little to smile about a week later as Dame Carol won a temporary injunction against her film. Photo: James Alcock

It’s been a long and bruising journey for all parties. Joe Moses, the Paga Hill activist who is the real hero of Fifer’s movie, spent a couple of years in hiding but is now in the UK, studying international human rights law. Many of the former residents of Paga Hill are homeless in downtown Port Moresby; those who took the inducements to move are still living in the tents they were told would be temporary. There are 200 of them at a place called Six Mile, says Fifer, under rotting canvas, with one tap and a toilet that doesn’t work properly.

As for Fifer herself, she says after five years on this one she’s in no hurry to race into the next project.

“I don’t want to just launch into another one because I want to make a film – I want to launch into it knowing this is something that needs to exist.”

She wants to put the difficult journey of her film to good use, and is looking for ways to share what she learnt with other documentary makers, if only so they don’t have to go through the same things.

“I feel like I’ve had a bit of an experience with this film. I don’t feel it’s right for me to silo that and move on to the next film, to go, ‘Oh that’s good that I learnt all that, but it’s just for me’.”

It would be fair to say she’s in a cooling-off period, but she insists she hasn’t gone cold.

“I’m up for a good challenge,” she says, smiling wryly. “But maybe a little less of a challenge.”

The Opposition is opening night film at the Human Rights Arts and Film Festival, which runs May 4-18 in Melbourne, May 23-27 in Sydney, May 29-31 in Canberra, June 1-3 in June and June 1 in Perth and June 2 in Hobart. Details: hraff.org.au

Stanley Liria to contest Peter O’Neill’s seat – Is there more than meets the eye?

April 24, 2017 1 comment

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’.

Stanley Liria

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Additional evidence

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 crossrds@hotmail.com

Elite network behind Paga Hill Estate

February 16, 2017 14 comments

Minister Justin Tkatchenko has this week called for a Commission of Inquiry into the murky deals behind acquisition of Paga Hill land and the abuse suffered by its former residents at the hands of Gummy Fredriksson and the Paga Hill Development Company.

Meanwhile, PHDC has issued a defence, claiming it has indefeasible title over Paga Hill, winning every legal challenge in District, National and Supreme Courts’.

We think we need to look again at the facts, and republish here an article from May 2016:

paga hill

Peter O’Neill, Michael Nali, Gudmundur Fridriksson, Rex Paki, Jimmy Maladina, Dame Carol Kidu, Labi Amaiu, Tom Amaiu, these are just some of the names uncovered through an extensive probe that looks into the power players behind Port Moresby’s controversial Paga Hill Estate development, and their business partners.

The investigation was conducted by a senior criminologist Dr Kristian Lasslett, who began forensic research into the real-estate venture during 2012.

In the post, which first appeared on statecrime.org, Dr Lasslett raises new questions over the shareholders and executives standing behind the luxury real-estate development on Port Moresby’s harbour foreshores, and their connection not only to some of the biggest names in Southern Highlands politics, but numerous major corruption scandals.

Dr Lasslett connects Paga Hill executives and shareholders to major players into the Commission of Inquiry into the National Provident Fund, the Commission of Inquiry into the Department of Finance and the joint special inquiry into the Public Curator’s Office conducted by the Auditor General and Public Accounts Committee.

He also provides evidence documenting potentially illegal land transactions lying at the foundations of the luxury real-estate project.

And this couldn’t come at a more important time. It was recently revealed that the Paga Hill Development Company – under the leadership of Icelandic businessman Gudmundur Fridriksson – is bankrolling Dame Carol Kidu’s legal case to shutdown a film that documents the real-estate venture and the valiant efforts by our own justice fighters to save a historic national park from the developer’s knife.

Back in 2006 the Public Accounts Committee alleged the Paga Hill Estate was spearheaded by ‘foreign speculators’, who secured the title through ‘corrupt dealings’. A decade later it seems the controversy is still well and truly alive.

The Paga Hill Estate – A vision for a ‘progressive’ future 

Once designated a national park, the majestic surrounds of Paga Hill have been eyed by numerous real-estate developers over the years. However, it is the Paga Hill Development Company (PHDC) which succeeded in clearing the land of its residents and national park status.

This paved the way for a development that will evidently include luxury hotels, 800+ residential apartments, sporting facilities, marina precinct, and multi-use commercial precinct.

PHDC boasts, ‘with tourists and visitors staying at the Hilton Hotel, residents of the site, together with city visitors enjoying the waterfront retail, restaurants and marina complex, the area will be a buzzing melting pot, creating a new image for a progressive Papua New Guinea’ (Hilton Hotels strongly denies  any involvement in the project).

Even among the rubble produced by a brutal demolition exercise in 2012, the site’s development value is readily apparent.

Of course it is always important to ask, who in particular will benefit from the proposed real-estate venture? Rarely are such projects universally beneficial.

We at least know one core clientele. It was recently announced that the estate ‘will be the venue for the Leaders’ meetings at the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation summit in Port Moresby’ slated to take place in 2018.

This is one of the most important multilateral forums in the Asia-Pacific region. If this announcement is true – unlike the partnership with Hilton Hotels – this gives the venture a special strategic importance for the summit’s principal sponsors the PNG and Australian governments.

Although the construction timeframe looks tight, PHDC has announced that the Shenzhen based, Zhongtai company, will collaborate in the development, with Chinese government backing.

The project also evidently has the support of the National Capital District Commission and PNG’s national government. According to PHDC’s website the ‘PNG Government will provide the support through relaxation of import duties and taxes’.

However, over its twenty year lifespan what is perhaps most striking about the Paga Hill Estate is the project’s ability to weather controversy. In 2007 the Public Accounts Committee accused PHDC of acquiring the land through ‘corrupt dealings’.

Five years later the project hit the headlines again after residents faced a brutal demolition exercise, executed by the Royal PNG Constabulary, allegedly at the behest of the company. This event became iconic when the opposition leader, Dame Carol Kidu, was frogmarched from the scene by police officers who had used live ammunition on residents. She argued PHDC was not an appropriate company to be entrusted with Paga Hill (Kidu later retracted her statement, and entered into a consultancy contract with PHDC).

In October 2012 matters got worse when it was reveal that PHDC’s CEO, Gudmundur Fridriksson, has managed or owned businesses censured in investigations conducted by the Public Accounts Committee, the Auditor General’s Office and the Commission of Inquiry into the Department of Finance – seven in total.

The details were covered extensively by the Australian media, although sadly little of the controversy made its way into PNG’s muzzled press. That said, PNG citizens have created a vibrant social media alternative, which became a vital hub for circulating information on Paga Hill.

A month after this expose Fridriksson took leave from an Australian government funded think-tank where he was CEO, evidently to pursue business interests in PNG. His presence has now been wiped entirely from their website.

The wife of prominent Australian indigenous lawyer Noel Pearson – the latter is a key figure behind the think-tank – then disinvested of her shares in PHDC during January 2013.

Despite the turbulence, Papua New Guinea’s O’Neill Government has time and time again rallied behind the venture. Ministers have issued supportive press statements, the government real-estate firm NHEL  agreed to partner in the project on a 50/50 basis, and the development is now receiving generous tax breaks.

This is nothing new, from the project’s very inception in 1996 the executives pushing this luxury estate have proven adept at garnering support from some of PNG’s most powerful political forces.

A rejected planning application and Michael Nali MP

The first major challenge to getting the project off the ground was rezoning the land at Paga Hill and obtaining an Urban Development Lease. Back then it was the Paga Hill Land Holding Company (PHLHC) – a precursor to the Paga Hill Development Company – which led the way.

According to Investment Promotion Authority records – Papua New Guinea’s corporate registry – its shareholders included Rex Paki, Felix Leyagon, and the Western Australian company, Fidelity Management Pty Ltd. Its Directors were Rex Paki and Gudmundur Fridriksson.

Fridriksson used the same Perth address as Fidelity Management Pty Ltd in records he submitted to the Investment Promotion Authority for Asigau (PNG) Holdings Limited, a company he owned with his wife, Tau Fridriksson. Initially the landholding company’s Secretary was Tau Fridriksson, according to Investment Promotion Authority records she was replaced on 1 July 1998 by Rex Paki.

paga hill fidelity

Clearly a  key player during the project’s start-up period was the Shareholder-Director-Secretary, Rex Paki, who was also the principal of Port Moresby firm Ram Business Consultants. Ram would go on to collect its own share of official condemnation from the Commission of Inquiry into the National Provident Fund, in addition to Public Accounts Committee and Auditor Generals Office investigations.

Despite having up and coming executives at the helm, PHLHC’s initial proposal for a luxury estate at Paga Hill was rejected by the Physical Planning Board in late 1996. The board noted, ‘proper procedures in relation to the processing of Planning applications were not followed’. This seemingly put an onion in the ointment, unless the application was approved, and the land rezoned, the Land Board could not lawfully issue an Urban Development Lease.

However, the company received a major boost in 1997, when its proposal obtained the backing of Michael Nali, the Minister for Civil Aviation, Culture and Tourism.  On 27 February 1997 he wrote to PHLHC stating: ‘It give [sic] me pleasure to confirm my full support to your proposed comprehensive mixed use development of Paga Hill … I am prepared to sponsor a submission to the National Executive Council [Cabinet] next month to have the project endorsed as a property of National Significance. It deserves the full support of Papua New Guinea’.

Paga Hill Nali letter

Subsequently, Michael Nali acquired a 9% stake in PHLHC’s successor vehicle the Paga Hill Development Company (PHDC) through Kwadi Inn Limited, which Nali is the sole owner of. However, it should be underlined this occurred in December 2011. By then Nali had lost office.

Yet the importance of Nali’s involvement in 2011 can’t be underestimated. A towering figure from Papua New Guinea’s Southern Highlands, Nali is in business with some of the nation’s most powerful individuals.

Take the example of NIU Finance Limited. According to Investment Promotion Authority records [PDF], Nali’s company Kwadi Inn obtained a significant stake in this company during 2009, joining a select cast of executives and investors.

According to its last Annual Return, the company’s Managing Director is Peter O’Neill, Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister.  Peter O’Neill again appears as the largest shareholder in NIU, through his companies LBJ Investments Limited, and Paddy’s Hotel & Apartments Limited. Another notable shareholder in this enterprise is Piskulic Limited, a company wholly owned by Ken Fairweather, Member of Parliament for Sumkar.

There is no evidence on the public record to suggest either O’Neill or Fairweather have been involved in the Paga Hill Estate. Nevertheless, it is clear Nali circulates in powerful business circles.

And it goes further than this. It appears that Nali had direct business links with PHLHC’s Rex Paki and Felix Leyagon dating back to 1996-1997, the period when he agreed to sponsor the Paga Hill development as a project of national significance in Cabinet.

According to company records kept by the Investment Promotion Authority, on 11 November 1996, a company Waim No.54 Limited, was incorporated. Its two Directors were Rex Paki and Felix Leyagon. The company also had two equal shareholders, the Tourism Minister, Michael Nali and Mary Nali.

In addition to this, Waim No.54 Limited’s registered address was Ram Business Consultants, ADF Haus, Ground Floor, Musgrave Street, Port Moresby, National Capital District, Papua New Guinea. This is the same registered address employed by PHLHC.

If accurate, IPA records suggest Rex Paki and Felix Leyagon were Directors at a company owned by Michael and Mary Nali. Furthermore, Michael Nali’s company, Waim No.54, also shared PHLHC’s registered address.

During this same period, Michael Nali, in his Ministerial capacity agreed to sponsor PHLHC’s proposed Paga Hill property development in Cabinet as a project of national significance, a venture  in which Rex Paki and Felix Leyagon were shareholders, with executive involvement from Gudmundur Fridriksson and Paki.

Paga Hill network

Public Accounts Committee alleges ‘corrupt dealings’

Of course, it cannot be deduced from these facts that the above parties were involved in any wrongdoing. However, in light of a subsequent Public Accounts Committee inquiry, which alleged that the land at Paga Hill was secured by PHLHC through ‘corrupt dealings’, this new link raises questions.

Underpinning the Public Accounts Committee’s concern was the circumstances under which the lease was obtained. For instance the Urban Development Lease was awarded to PHLHC when the land was still zoned open space. Before she recanted, Dame Carol Kidu observed this was in violation of the Land Act 1996, section 67, which declares, ‘a State lease shall not be granted for a purpose that would be in contravention of zoning requirements under the Physical Planning Act 1989, any other law relating to physical planning, or any law relating to the use, construction or occupation of buildings or land’.

Subsequently, PHDC was awarded a full 99 year Business Lease, despite the fact the improvement covenant set out in the Urban Development Lease was not completed as required.

The Public Accounts Committee claimed  it was not surprised this covenant remained unactioned. It observed, ‘the Lessee cannot pay the Land Rental and has sought relief from that obligation, much less fund a development of the magnitude required’.

paga hill lease

However, apparently this is not the only occasion that a company connected with Ram Business Consultants is alleged to have been involved in illegal land dealings. Those familiar with the Commission of Inquiry into the National Provident Fund Chaired by Judge Tos Barnett,  may have had a touch of déjà vu when the name Waim was mentioned.

Ram Business Consultants, Waim No.92 and the NPF Commission of Inquiry

It was another holding company, Waim No.92 Pty Ltd, that was allegedly used to defraud the National Provident Fund – a transaction that saw one conspirator sentenced to six years imprisonment with hard labour. According to the Commission of Inquiry, controversial PNG businessman Jimmy Maladina was the ‘secret owner of Waim No.92 Pty Ltd the shares of which he initially owned through his wife Janet Karl, and an accountant Phillip Eludeme. Ms Karl’s share was later transferred to Phillip Mamando who resided at the Mr Maladina’s residence’.

The Commission of Inquiry alleges that ‘Mr Maladina was responsible for bribing Land Board chairman Ralph Guise and Lands Minister Viviso Seravo, to ensure Waim No.92 was granted the lease of the Waigani Land on very favourable terms’. It continues: ‘The records of the Land Board indicate it notified Waim No. 92 that it had been recommended as the successful applicant and on September 28, 1998, Waim No. 92 received notice that a corruptly reduced purchase price of K1,724,726.10 was payable before title would issue, with annual rent to be K17,000 (instead of the legally correct amounts of K2,866,000 and K143,000 respectively)’.

The Commission of Inquiry claims that Waim No.92 frontman Philip Eludeme acted as a key fixer, ‘prior to the Land Board hearing, Mr Eludeme had approached Minister Seravo seeking favourable consideration for Waim No. 92’s application and, at Mr Seravo’s request, had performed, free of charge, accountancy services for Minister Seravo valued at K100,000′.

According to the company’s annual returns for 1998, Waim No.92’s  registered office during this period was Ram Business Consultants, ADF House. While its two shareholders cited above, Philip Eludeme and Phillip Mamando, similarly list their registered office as Ram Business Consultants, ADF House.

During 1998 Maladina’s alleged fixer, Philip Eludeme, was a director of the company Sulawei Limited, along with PHLHC shareholder, Felix Leyagon. Sulawei Limited’s  registered address was again Ram Business Consultants, ADF House.

paga hill ram network

It would thus appear there were multiple links between two networks alleged to have been involved in similar style illicit land deals by the Public Accounts Committee and the Commission of Inquiry into the National Provident Fund, respectively.

The Paki Fridriksson split and the Inquiry into the Office of the Public Curator  

The original development vehicle was of course the PHLHC. However, the Auditor General notes in early 2000 its two Directors apparently part ways [PDF], with Gudmundur Fridriksson evidently leaving Ram Business Consultants where he was alleged to have been employed (Fridriksson is PHDC’s current CEO).

Fridriksson was then involved in setting up a number of companies including Anvil Legal Services Limited, Anvil Project Services (PNG) Limited, Anvil Commodities and Trading Limited, Anvil Marine Limited, Anvil Marketing Consultants Limited, and CCS Anvil Limited.

Anvil Project Services (PNG) Limited and CCS Anvil Limited  have been censured in the course of  inquiries conducted by the Auditor General, Public Accounts Committee and the Commission of Inquiry into the Department of Finance. Perhaps the most controversial of these companies is Anvil Project Services (PNG) Limited,  which was awarded lucrative consultancy contracts with the Public Curator’s Office (shortly after Ram Business Consultants lost its contract with the same office).

This award wade made despite the fact the arrangement had been rejected by the Central Supply and Tender Board owing to no public tender – a procedure which is in violation of Papua New Guinea’s Public Finances (Management) Act1995.

The contract went ahead anyway, although it is alleged [PDF] by the Public Accounts Committee and Auditor General, that payments were made out of private estates held on trust by the Public Curator.

According to company records kept at the Investment Promotion Authority, Gomoga Jack Nouairi, the Acting Public Curator at the time which the Public Curator and Anvil began working together, had a 30% stake in Anvil Project Services (PNG) Limited – the remaining 70% was owned by Gudmundur Fridriksson and his wife through the company Asigau (PNG) Holdings Limited.

Nouairi was also Director of Anvil Commodities and Trading Limited, in which Anvil Project Services (PNG) Limited had a 50% stake, and was a 50% owner of Anvil Legal Services Limited, along with Gudmundur and Tau Fridriksson.

paga hill anvil network

Another company implicated in the inquiry into the Public Curator’s Office was Jac’o Business Consultants Limited, a concern owned by its principal Jack Naiyep. Despite being paid K1.5 million by the Public Curator’s Office, the Public Accounts Committee claims ‘there was no evidence that any formal procurement had ever taken place, nor was there any evidence of any formal contract’.

Naiyep and the Fridrikssons were business partners in a separate company they co-owned together, Anvil Business Services Limited.  Naiyep also had a stake in Mamaku Mai No.3 Limited. Before the latter company was deregistered it was connected to the family of former Prime Minister Bill Skate.  Also of significance is one of the company’s Directors, Paul Wagun.

It was a Paul Wagun who replaced Gomoga Jack Nouairi as Public Curator, and submitted evidence to the Public Accounts Committee and Taskforce Sweep contesting any wrongdoing by his office or Anvil (PNG) Project Services Limited. It cannot be confirmed this is the same Paul Wagun, however, given Jac’o Consultant’s role in the Public Curator’s Office, the overlap is concerning.

Sadly in a subsequent inquiry into this affair by Papua New Guinea’s anti-corruption agency, Investigation Taskforce Sweep, none of these crucial links between Fridriksson, Nouairi, Naiyep and Wagun were acknowledged in its case report, despite being freely obtainable from the Investment Promotion Authority company registry. When these flaws were noted by this author in a report published last year, Investigation Taskforce Sweep threatened to sue for defamation.

Another interesting company set up during this period under the Anvil stable, was Anvil Marine Limited. During its period of operation 2002-2005, the company was owned by Gudmundur and Tau Fridriksson, along with the father and son team, Tom Amaiu and Labi Alex Amaiu. Tom Amaiu is a former Member of Parliament, who was sentenced to five years prison for theft.

His son Labi Amaiu is the current Member of Parliament for Moresby North East, and has patronised PHDC, featuring prominently in the company’s promotional material. He can be seen in this video published by PHDC lauding Gudmundur Fridriksson. Amaiu states he would like to ‘congratulate and thank the CEO of Paga Hill development for a successful venture, this is what we call legacy, and I am proud to be part of that legacy’.

Fridriksson’s companies featured in a number of other inquiries during this contentious period, including the Commission of Inquiry into the Department of Finance. Nevertheless, public condemnation from Papua New Guinea’s anti-corruption agencies has not significantly impacted on PHDC’s grip over the land at Paga Hill.

Paga Hill Development Company’s Southern Highlands Connection

Part of PHDC’s success appears to be linked to its influential stakeholders. It will be recalled that the Urban Development Lease was originally awarded to PHLHC, a company jointly owned by Rex Paki, Felix Leyagon and Fidelity Management Pty Ltd. When the lease was converted into a 99 year Business Lease in 2000, the owner was a new corporate vehicle, PHDC.

The Public Accounts Committee in its inquiry drew attention to this – the recipient of any converted lease, it argued, should have been the initial owner PHLHC. At the time, PHDC was owned by Fidelity Management Ltd Pty, a holding company which shared a registered address in Perth, Australia with Gudmundur Fridriksson. But unlike PHLHC, Rex Paki and Felix Leyagon were not on the share register.

In 2005 ownership of the company changed hands, as Fidelity Management Ltd Pty’s shares were transferred to another vehicle,  Anvil Holding Limited. At this time Anvil Holdings Limited was owned by George Hallit, along with Gudmundur and Tau Fridriksson. However, between 2008 and 2011 there were a series of further changes to PHDC’s ownership structure. By the end of it, the Fridrikssons’ apparently divested all their shares in the company. It was PHDC’s lawyer, Stanley Liria, who became the majority shareholder.

Originally from the Southern Highlands, Liria has published a number of legal texts.  The first was launched in 2005 by Southern Highlands political heavyweight Peter O’Neill who informed the Post-Courier he would recommend to his ‘parliament colleagues that they buy the newly published book’.

Liria is also commercially linked to a number of high profile Southern Highland politicians. For instance, Liria is Director of Southern Highlands Holding Limited, along with former Minister, Michael Nali, who is also a PHDC shareholder via Kwadi Inn Limited. The sole shareholder of the holding company is the Southern Highlands Provincial Government.

In addition, there is Sharp Hills Investment Limited, a company fully owned by Southern Highlands Governor William Tipi, who entered parliament as an MP for Peter O’Neill’s People’s National Congress party. According to Sharp Hill’s company records, its registered office is Liria Lawyers, a firm which Stanley Liria is the principal of. William Tipi was also formerly a shareholder in Southern Highlands Holding Limited, presumably as a trustee for the provincial government.

Alongside Liria at PHDC is Michael Nali, who through Kwadi Inn, has acquired a 9% stake in the company – although this was reduced to 2% during April 2016. As we have already observed, Nali is in business with Papua New Guinea’s most powerful political players including Prime Minister O’Neill.

Curiously absent though is Gudmundur Fridriksson. Despite being the principal visionary and driver behind the project he has seemingly divested from the company, while retaining an executive role as CEO.

Nevertheless, given the current political gravity in Papua New Guinea, having backers with strong Southern Highlands credentials cannot have harmed the company over the past five years, as it has navigated significant public resistance to its real-estate venture.

Cold comfort 

All this analysis is rather academic for former Paga Hill residents. Many had their homes, belongings, church and school destroyed through a number of demolition exercises between 2012-2014 (PHDC has only been directly linked to the first exercise in May 2012). The soul and life of the community is captured in a moving song they composed to commemorate the destruction:

As a result of the demolition exercise, the site is now being prepared for the luxury estate which Michael Nali lauded as Minister back in 1997. Twenty years on, as the development is promoted as a host site for APEC 2018, questions still linger over the land transactions that underpinned its inception and a number of  executives involved in stewarding this project.

Given the systematic efforts being devoted to censoring a documentary film covering this controversial ventureone senses these questions may encroach on very powerful interests indeed.

Yet whatever happens with Paga Hill, audiences may sense the bell tolls for thee. As a real-estate venture Paga Hill is not unique or exceptional, even if its displaced residents are a very special group indeed.

injunction paga hill

Around the world cities are transforming through a process of creative destruction, or what geographer David Harvey calls accumulation by dispossession. They are becoming spaces moulded in the image of power, money, corruption and violence.

Indeed, the technical and often highly opaque character of urban governance is a breeding ground for abuse and inequality. It is a matter for wonks, bureaucrats and developers. It needs to be a space of popular, public participation.

The Opposition calls this to our attention. Of course, what we do to confront these dilemmas is the next urgent conversation to be had.

Duma Scandal Thickens – The Fox is in the Henhouse

February 6, 2017 2 comments

william-duma 

When PNG Blogs exposed the Duma scandal, in which the Minister is alleged to have personally benefited from K50 million paid by the State to relocate the Lancron naval base, it was hard to know where to begin analysing the affair. There were so many angles!

Over the weekend we exposed the corrupt background of the man appointed by the Prime Minister to supposedly investigate the Duma affair – Chief Secretary Isaac Lupari.

Now it is time for another instalment.

It is alleged that one of Duma’s accomplices in the K50 million fraud was Phillip Eludeme and PNG Blogs has suggested that Eludeme received K16.5 million for his role in facilitating the scam.

Eludeme is the Chairman of the Central Supply and Tender Board, arguably one of the country’s most important national bodies. It can either be a guard against corruption if run properly, or a mechanism for corruption if abused.

So who would you appoint to Chair such an important Board, which safeguards hundreds of millions in public money? Probably not one of the leading stars in the National Provident Fund Commission of Inquiry, who is alleged to have supplied a K100,000 bribe to the Lands Minister. But this is exactly what happened.

The scandal centred on, Waim No.92, which on paper was owned by Phillip Mamando and Philip Eludeme. The commission argued both were proxy shareholders for none other than Jimmy Maladina, Chairman of the National Provident Fund. The conspiracy, the Commission of Inquiry argued was to acquire a plot of land in Waigani for a discounted price and then sell it on to the NPF at an inflated sum. 

The Commission claims Eludeme was a key fixer in this corrupt deal, ‘prior to the Land Board hearing, Mr Eludeme had approached [Lands] Minister Seravo seeking favourable consideration for Waim No. 92’s application and, at Mr Seravo’s request, had performed, free of charge, accountancy services for Minister Seravo valued at K100,000’. The Commission adds: ‘The records of the Land Board indicate it notified Waim No. 92 that it had been recommended as the successful applicant and on September 28, 1998, Waim No. 92 received notice that a corruptly reduced purchase price of K1,724,726.10 was payable before title would issue, with annual rent to be K17,000 (instead of the legally correct amounts of K2,866,000 and K143,000 respectively)’.

Interestingly, Eludeme’s company at the centre of the NPF Commission of Inquiry, registered office at the time was Ram Business Consultants – Eludeme’s personal registered address was the same company.

Ram Business Consultants was another player at the centre of the NPF inquiry. In addition to this its principal, Rex Paki, was also one of the initial shareholders in the Paga Hill Estate.

National Court records indicate William Duma was involved in a land-grab that will greatly benefit from this proposed ‘tourism city’ at Paga Hill. He has also acted as Director in Malaga No.7 Limited, which is owned by Paga Hill Development Company.

In addition to the NPF scandal, Eludeme also featured in the SABL Commission of Inquiry, owing to his involvement in a company at the centre of the Bewani oil palm and logging scam – a major fraud involving 140,000 hectares of customary land, discussed in detail on PNG Echo blog.

According to the SABL CoI, one of the companies involved in the scam, Bewani Palms Management Limited was owned by Philip Eludeme and he was also a director, alongside Charles Litau, John Wuni and Bob Namah.

It appears birds of a feather flock together. 

The Duma Scandal Deepens – New Links and New Land Grabs

February 2, 2017 9 comments
william-duma

William Duma’s denials of involvement are contradicted by the facts

Minister William Duma informed parliament on Tuesday that he has no links to the company, Kurkuramb Estates, that is the beneficiary of a sweetheart deal worth K46.6 million to purchase land for a PNG Defence Force naval base.

PNG Blogs originally broke this story with some astute detective work. 

However, Duma’s attempt to wriggle out of the scandal, by claiming no connection to Kurkuramb Estates is futile. This network map shows the intimate connection between the two:

vis_duma-1

We can also reveal this is not the first time that Minister Duma has been implicated in a potentially corrupt land deal.

In a Judicial Review case before the Supreme Court in 2012, the company Noko 96 claimed that Duma’s company, Kopana Investments Limited, acquired their 5 state leases over harbourside land at Paga Hill, Port Moresby. The Supreme Court, noted with suspicion that in a short space of time the then Lands Minister Puka Temu:

  • forfeited five State Leases held by Noko; and
  • after forfeiting the leases, exempted the land to which they related (five blocks at Paga Hill, Port Moresby) from advertisement; and
  • granted new State Leases over the land to Kopana Investments Ltd, a company owned and controlled by the then Minister for Petroleum and Energy, Hon William Duma MP.

The court presented the suspicious timeline underpinning this sweetheart deal given by one member of Cabinet to another:

27 March 2009

:

Notice to show cause why leases should not be forfeited, posted to Noko.

27 April 2009

:

Kopana submitted applications regarding land covered by Noko’s five State leases to the Land Board.

1 July 2009

:

Department of Lands and Physical Planning sent reminder notice to Noko.

3 Sept 2009

:

Forfeiture notices published in National Gazette.

14 Sept 2009

:

Minister exempted land from advertisement.

29 Sept 2009

:

Land Board recommended leases be granted to Kopana.

12 Nov 2009

:

Publication in National Gazette of Kopana as successful applicant.

25 Nov2009

:

Five State Leases (previously held by Noko) granted to Kopana.

This all came at a very convenient time. Another company censured for its corruption, Paga Hill Development Company – led by Gudmundur Fridriksson – had just acquired a 99 state lease over a 13.7 hectare neighbouring property. The lease was issued on 03/04/2009. This, of course, is the developer who promises to build a ‘tourism city’, complete with 6-star hotels and a commercial grade marina, prepped and ready for APEC 2018.

Three weeks after the PHDC lease is issued, Duma, the ever astute businessmen, begins steps to acquire waterfront land which would be needed for this mega-development worth K3 billion. 

Despite the suspicious circumstances and the court revelations, an inside source claims Duma still retains ownership of the prime Paga Hill land.  And look who served as a Director at Malaga No.7 Limited – a vehicle owned by the Paga Hill Development Company. You guessed it, Minister Duma!

duma-fridriksson

It appears winners are grinners. No wonder 8 million Papua New Guineans are frowning right now! 

Justice prevails with injunction on The Opposition rejected by court – however new legal threat looms

July 15, 2016 1 comment

carol kidu paga hill

Source: Media Stockade

The Supreme Court of New South Wales today released the full judgment of 8th July 2016, unequivocally dismissing former Papua New Guinean politician Dame Carol Kidu’s claim for a permanent injunction preventing filmmaker Hollie Fifer, Media Stockade and Beacon Films from screening the documentary The Opposition.

On 20 March 2016 Carol Kidu sought to exclude her appearance and dialogue in the film by seeking an injunction restraining the distribution of any visual or audio recording of herself or any summary, representation or description that has the effect of revealing that content. Her legal case was supported by the Paga Hill Development Company (PHDC).

The judgment reads:

When one views the extreme weaknesses of the Plaintiff’s (Dame Carol Kidu’s) claim that she did not know on and from 7 March 2012 that Ms Fifer was hoping to make a documentary for public exhibition rather than a student assignment (whatever it’s topic) the impression gained is that the Plaintiff is prepared, for her own benefit and that of PHDC to say anything to stop the footage taken of her by Ms Fifer being broadcast.

Download the full judgement (1.4MB) Kidu v Fifer

Director Hollie Fifer said, “we are relieved that justice has been served and that audiences around the world will be given the opportunity to see The Opposition and the important story of The Paga Hill Community.

“The Paga Hill Community is filing for damages in the PNG Courts for the loss of their homes and human rights violations. The Opposition is also their evidence base because most of their documents were destroyed during numerous demolition exercises that were carried out at Paga Hill,” said Ms. Fifer.

“This legal conflict has been an extremely stressful time and has disrupted release plans for The Opposition, nearly derailing the film and the important issues it speaks to,” said the film’s producer Rebecca Barry. “We are grateful that we now have the film back in its entirety.”

However, a new legal threat now looms in an attempt to further suppress the film. The court’s temporary injunction of footage featuring Carol Kidu, forced the filmmakers to screen a redacted version at Hot Docs International Film Festival in Toronto in May 2016. The redacted version of the film features narration over the censored footage by Australian actress Sarah Snook.

Just hours after the Hot Docs International Film Festival premiere of the film, independent production companies, Beacon Films and Media Stockade received further legal demands over the film.

Paga Hill Development Company (PHDC), CEO and Director Gudmundur Fridriksson, PHDC director Stanley Liria and former PHDC director George Hallit are demanding all further screenings of the film are immediately ceased due to claims of defamatory imputations.

This is the second legal action taken against the film. The new legal demands were issued within hours of the film’s first screening.

“It would seem that there are powerful forces who don’t want this film to be seen, but we believe that audiences should have the right to make up their own minds. This story is too important not to be told,” said Ms Barry.

Film Synopsis:

The Opposition tells the story of a David-and-Goliath battle over land in Papua New Guinea. It follows Joe Moses, one of the leaders of a four-generation strong settlement in Port Moresby who must save the community before they are evicted off their land. Battling it out in the courts, Joe may find their homes replaced with an international five-star hotel and marina being developed by the Paga Hill Development Company (PNG) Limited. The film highlights the massive gap between law and justice.

#TheOpposition #FreedomOfSpeech #LettheAudienceDecide

Visit the film website at: http://www.theoppositionfilm.com

Some key points from the Supreme Court of NSW Judgment:

The judge said that there were a number of factors which led him to have real concerns about the Plaintiff’s credibility including:

  • When faced with emails and SMS messages sent by Ms Fifer to the Plaintiff which contained material destructive of the Plaintiff’s contention that she thought Ms Fifer was only ever involved in a student assignment – the Plaintiff sought to assert that she had not properly read, or appreciated the content of those emails.
  • When conversations which were inconsistent with the Plaintiff’s case that she did not know that Ms Fifer was engaged in making a documentary and not simply making a student assignment were drawn to her attention – the Plaintiff asserted she said that she did not recall them.
  • The Plaintiff asserted in correspondence that she had never given written consent even though she had signed such a document (a release form) and had in July 2012 been reminded by Ms Fifer that she had.

Some of the findings of facts include:

  • That from 7 March 2012 the Plaintiff was fully aware that Ms Fifer would be taking footage for a documentary that Ms Fifer hoped she could broadcast to the public and that the Plaintiff was positive about that idea at least until July 2012 and as far as Ms Fifer knew until at least late 2013.
  • That by December 2013 the Plaintiff had in contemplation entering into a contract with PHDC using a company controlled by her and that in March 2014 her company entered into a contract with PHDC, by which it was to receive the equivalent of approximately $A178,000 (from which her company would need to make payments to subcontractors.)
  • That the Plaintiff invited Ms Fifer to film at Six Mile (the proposed resettlement site) and told her that PHDC would pay for that filming and that she offered to organize a UN Media award for Ms. Fifer.

Ms. Fifer, Media Stockade and Beacon Films were represented by Barrister Richard Potter, Junior Barrister Mark Maconachie and Solicitor Peter Bolam from legal firm Broadley Rees Hogan.