PNG Finance Minister denies arrest rumours | Pacific Beat

PNG Finance Minister denies arrest rumours

PNG Finance Minister denies arrest rumours

Updated 3 December 2013, 18:44 AEST

Papua New Guinea's Finance Minister James Marape has denied rumours he was arrested last week in relation to the alleged fraudulent payments of over 30 million Australian dollars to a law firm.

PNG's anti-corruption unit, Task Force Sweep, alleges the law firm submitted fraudulent bills for legal work performed for the state, and was paid by PNG's Finance department.

But the Finance Minister has denied rumours that he was charged over the matter.

Presenter: Firmin Nanol

Speakers: James Marape, PNG Finance Minister; Belden Namah,

PNG's Opposition Leader

NANOL:

PNG Finance Minister James Marape says that - contrary to rumours - he was not arrested and charged over the high profile fraud allegations.

Mr Marape told journalists he was called into the Police Fraud Squad Office on Friday to provide relevant documents and information to help police investigations on the payments.

MARAPE:

No I was not arrested, but I went to the police to give statements. Some of them contained some memos or internal documentations - I had to go and support them, affirm to them or deny to them those correspondence and files that are before police and assist them in the course of their work. So arrest didn't take place but support of the work of police did take place. The public can know that as Government we are not suppressing the investigation. I am subject to being investigated. My secretary is subjected to being investigated. We hold public office that comes under scrutiny all the time.

He says the government is supportive of the investigations into both the nation's biggest law firm, Paul Paraka Lawyers, and the Finance Department.

MARAPE:

We in Finance, whether me as Minister or Acting Secretary or Secretary, we are not here to conceal or hide matters that are before investigations. We are here to support investigations that are sanctioned by Government. And if there are any instances where in the course of the investigation, in the course of the police, if any one of us are found to be at fault, the correct course of action will take place. In the meantime we are in total cooperation with the police because in Finance all the time we deal with payments."

NANOL:

The anti-corruption agency alleges Paul Paraka Lawyers was fraudulently paid the 30 million dollars in 2012 for work it's said to have done for the state.

Its principal Paul Paraka has been arrested and charged with five counts of conspiracy to defraud the state, nine counts of stealing by false pretence, two counts of money laundering and two counts of misappropriation.

He will appear in court again on December 13th.

In May this year, PNG's Opposition Leader Belden Namah revealed the allegations of fraudulent payments to the law firm in parliament.

He tabled a letter of directive appearing to bear the signature of Prime Minister Peter O'Neill to the Finance Minister James Marape, authorising the payment.

Mr Namah says Mr O'Neill, Minister Marape and the Treasurer Don Polye have conspired to defraud the state by paying monies not owed to Paul Paraka Lawyers.

NAMAH:

I am now asking once again for Peter O'Neill to resign as Prime Minister, for James Marape to resign as Finance Minister, for

Don Polye to resign as Treasurer because of them conspiring to pay Paul Paraka lawyers 71 million [kina].

NANOL:

Belden Namah also laid a formal complaint against the Peter O'Neill, saying the Prime Minister, Finance Minister and Treasurer should be arrested.

The Director of the PNG Police Fraud Squad Mathew Damaru has acknowledged receiving and registering the complaint and was investigating the allegations against the senior officials.

The Treasurer Don Polye has long denied any involvement in the payment.

Prime Minister Peter O'Neill has told reporters earlier last month his signature had been forged and said those responsible will be investigated, arrested, charged and prosecuted.

PNG's Finance Minister James Marape says he has nothing to hide and receipts of payments have been given to the Police Fraud Squad and the Investigation Task Force Sweep Team.

Three years ago, a Commission of Inquiry conducted for parliament revealed a $300m scam perpetrated by top officials and leading lawyers.

The Paraka Lawyers Principal, Paul Paraka was heavily implicated in the inquiry.

But the report had been subject to an injunction until last week.

PNG's Chief Government Secretary Manasupe Zurenuoc says the government is now free to implement the findings.

Mr Zurenuoc says those lawyers implicated have been referred to the PNG Law Society and senior bureaucrats and businessmen to the Investigation Task Force Sweep Team.

But Paul Paraka and another lawyer Zachery Gelu says they will appeal to the higher court and issued a joint statement vowing get another restraining order.

Firmin Nanol, Port Moresby.

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