Laundering money in Australia is big business for PNG criminals, estimated to be worth $200 million a year.
But prior to 2012, Australian authorities had not caught any wrong-doers.
Anti-Corruption Task Force Chairman, Sam Koim, says PNG is now sharing intelligence and conducting cross-border investigations with the Australian Federal Police and Australian banks are closing accounts of risky individuals.
GARRETT: Cairns is an appropriate place for Sam Koim, Chairman of PNG’s Anti-Corruption Taskforce Sweep to be talking. Much of the proceeds of corruption in PNG is invested in real estate in that and other Australian cities. Mr Koim says Australian authorities are now helping to stop cross-border crime.
KOIM: I know Australia has setup a … to assist us. Further than that we’ve also signed a memorandum of understanding with the Australian Federal Police to share intelligence information, as well as conducting cross-border investigations. So that’s been signed December last year. We’ve also had a number of our cases, investigations conducted here with the assistance of the Australian Federal Police and the Department of Justice. As a result of two mutually legal assistance requests, we’ve had restraining orders taken against assets owned by questionable PNG … here in Australia. To my mind that is the first ever successful mutual legal assistance request that has been complied with, and assets have been actually restrained.
GARRETT: Three million dollars worth of proceeds of crime have been recovered by Taskforce Sweep here in Australia and in Papua New Guinea. Sam Koim says the measures being taken by Australian authorities are making money laundering crooks sit up and take notice.
KOIM: Now they know that there’s no easy movement of funds across the border. I’ve heard people who have done that previously saying that look even some of them complaining that look Australian banks and financial institutions are asking too many questions about us and bringing our monies across for our kids and our family down there, at least I can see that they know that somebody’s watching them.
GARRETT: In Papua New Guinea Taskforce Sweep has recovered 90 million dollars in unpaid tax. It has dozens of prosecutions under way. In April its most high profile prosecution resulted in former Planning Minister Paul Tiensten receiving a nine-year jail sentence. Sam Koim says that has made those involved in corrupt activities fearful.
KOIM: It has significant effects, particularly with this particular person the message that was evaporated within the political circles, of course those people who had questionable things, they see that if Mr Tiensten can go to jail for just a footnote, there was no evidence linking him to benefit from the proceeds of the ten million kina, you see all other people who purportedly through political directives and all this … orders, they know that it’s coming. It has immensely instilled in them fear and there’s a strong deterrent message that has been portrayed as a result of the decision on Tiensten. We’ve also had two other successful convictions, and those were involved in the Health Department, particularly in the area of medical supply distribution. There’s a lot of health, medical supplies with corruption issues, we’ve actually had two successful convictions. So that should send a strong message to those officers who are working at the distribution of health.
GARRETT: You’ve praised some of the banks who’ve been closing down risky bank accounts. What sort of accounts are you talking about there?
KOIM: Well the banks know and have reason to know the burden of transactions that these people have. Some when they see as charging individuals, then they close the bank accounts, some when they see that suspicious behaviour on the pattern of transactions, then they close the bank accounts. So far a number of banks have refused transactions. They’ve closed bank accounts and they continue to ask more questions than they used to.
Reporter: Jemima Garrett
Speaker: Sam Koim, the Chairman of PNG's Taskforce Sweep