Witnesses yet to come in for Potape’s re-trial

State witnesses from Mt Hagen are yet to come into Port Moresby to give evidence in the misappropriation re-trial against Komo-Margarima MP, Francis Potape.

The State this morning presented an affidavit from police investigating officer to the court to inform it that the availability of transportation funds is beyond his control in bringing witnesses into Port Moresby in time for the trial.

The re-trial was supposed to commence this morning however the State sought an adjournment to next Monday which was allowed by the court.

That adjournment was objected by Potape’s lawyer, Justin Haiara saying they had been waiting for the trial for almost 12 months and that the leader has responsibilities in the Hela Provincial Government.

Justice George Manuhu told the State to return to court prepared on Monday where he expects the indictment or charge against Potape to be read out before the commencement of the trial.

 The re-trial was ordered after the Supreme Court on July 31, 2015 quashed Potape's conviction and sentence after a successful appeal.

Potape was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison on January 19, 2015, for conspiring to defraud the State and dishonestly applying to himself and others, K330, 000. These were monies belonging to the Joint District Planning and Budget Priorities Committee (JDP&BPC).

He allegedly received K60, 000 of that amount. The charges arose from a meeting of the JDP&BPC meeting in his electorate in November, 2010. Here it is alleged Potape chaired the meeting and resolved to pay themselves so-called outstanding sitting allowances covering transport, security and food over a two-year period.

State however, alleges no receipts were produced to show proof of expenses claimed by Potape and his committee.

He served seven months in prison while awaiting his appeal before the Supreme Court against his conviction and sentencing.

On July 31, 2015, a three-member Supreme Court bench consisting of Chief Justices Salamo Injia, Justices Goodwin Poole and Ere Kariko, quashed his conviction and sentence after finding errors in the case by trial judge. He has since been released from prison and is out on an extended bail.

(Komo-Margarima MP, Francis Potape and supporters outside court today.) 

Sally Pokiton