PM tells ministers to pursue legal scandal with Australians

Prime Minister Peter O’Neill wants talks with Australian law enforcement agencies to probe comments made by two prominent lawyers in PNG.

He  has asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs Rimbink Pato and Attorney General and Minister for Justice Ano Pala to talk with the Australians  about the comments made by two lawyers that were aired on overseas media in the past week.

He is referring to prominent private lawyers Greg Sheppard and Harvey Maladina of Young and Williams law firm.

Mr Sheppard denied claims of impropriety when he spoke with PNG media last Thursday and said he was merely responding to general questions from a visitor about how to handle situations.

Ministers Pato and Pala will now seek to have the claims, that were aired on SBS television, to be investigated in both the Papua New Guinea and Australian jurisdictions.

“The comments made by the two men in question are alarming and are the subject of investigation in Papua New Guinea,” O’Neill said.

“I have sought advice on the most effective way to have these claims investigated from all angles and now we are seeking to ensure that this process takes place in both countries relevant to the claims.

"It is not for the Government to judge these individuals, and all people are innocent until proven guilty before the law, but suggestions of money laundering involving high level officials must be properly investigated.  

"Now I expect relevant authorities will undertake their independent investigations and pursue the course of action that they see most appropriate.”

The Prime Minister said beyond any legal proceedings, the claims made in the SBS story feed into an old stereotypical view of Papua New Guinea that had developed after Independence.

"For decades Papua New Guinea suffered at the hands of foreign and local people who sought to take advantage of the then young nation.  We called them spivs and carpet baggers and over the course of time legislation has been introduced to stop these activities.

“Papua New Guinea of today is a country where there are checks and balances, where digital fingerprints are a tool of investigation and where we have access to the resources of international law enforcement to prevent illicit financial activities.

“We are part of a global legal and economic system where illegal practices of the past can be identified and dealt with.”

The Prime Minister called for patience as relevant authorities undertake  investigations.