Woman arrested over alleged Western funds misappropriation

The Special Police Forensic & Criminal Investigation Team (SPFCIT) has arrested and charged a woman director involved in the misappropriation and theft of K268 million from the Western Province People’s Dividends Trust Account.

The Community Mine Continuation Agreement (CMCA) Trust Funds are held with ANZ Bank.  

SPFCIT is headed by Commissioner of Police, David Manning, and comprises of police detectives, a forensic accounting specialist and legal counsel engaged the through Department of Justice & Attorney General (DJAG).  

The suspect, Edna Oai, a 45-year-old female from South Fly District in Western Province, was picked up from Daru on Monday 11th January 2021, by SPFCIT and flown to Port Moresby where she was formally charged with 15 counts of False Pretence, Conspiracy and Misappropriation. 

Oai has been refused police bail due to the seriousness of the offences. It was alleged that a significant amount of money was misappropriated by her, the secretary and directors of Ok Tedi Fly River Development Foundation Limited (OTFRDF Limited). 

SPFCIT conducted its investigation into the alleged misappropriation and stealing of CMCA Trust Funds beginning October 2020. The investigation was conducted based on a formal complaint lodged with the Office of Police Commissioner by the Open Member for North Fly Electorate, James Donald.  

The misappropriated CMCA Trust funds were intended to fund and implement development projects for CMCA Communities in Western Province. The use and management of CMCA Trust Funds are guided by the Trust Instrument underpinning the CMCA Trust Account and are not to be used for any other purpose.  

The investigation established that the funds were diverted and paid to a certain law firm, a company owned by the Secretary of OTFRDF Ltd, specific directors’ personal bank accounts and other companies between August 2018 and early 2020.  

The CMCA Trust Account were initially under the custody of the Independent State of Papua New Guinea through its nominee, Board of Trustees (BOT). The State’s BOT were replaced in August 2018 by representatives of OTFRDF Ltd namely, Chairman - Steven Bagari, Chief Executive Officer - Samson Jubi and Directors Abel Darugo and Edna Oai.

The four signatories of OTFRDF Ltd, purporting to represent the interest of the 147,000-plus people originating from 158 villages within the CMCA Corridor in Western Province, accessed the CMCA Trust Account and withdrew a total of K268 million between August 2018 and February 2020 and deposited them into Non-Trust, Non-Interest-Bearing Bank Accounts belonging to a certain law firm and OTFRDF Ltd; held with different commercial banks.  

SPFCIT discovered that the people of CMCA Corridor in Western Province have been constantly complaining that no single development project has been funded and implemented in CMCA Communities using the CMCA Trust Funds.  

SPFCIT is continuing its investigation and is seeking the former and current directors of OTFRDF Ltd to come forward to assist Police regarding the misappropriation of the K268 million.  

Police also noted that the requirements of the company Act 1997, such as preparation and lodgement of Annual Returns and Financial statements for financial years covering 2016 to 2020, were not complied with.  

Further inquiries will be undertaken to determine if the company has complied with other statutory requirements such as payment of mandatory taxes to the Internal Revenue Commission.  

Further, Police ascertained that the Board of Directors of OTFRDF Ltd contained individuals that were incorrectly appointed, based on the existing proper processes that are followed to appoint leaders representing the people along the CMCA Corridor in Western Province. The election of the leaders is normally conducted by officials from the PNG Electoral Commission and witnessed by representatives from the Ok Tedi Development Foundation, Ok Tedi Mining Limited, village councilors, church, women’s and children’s groups and other interested stakeholders.  

Press release