PNG police chief told to reopen fraud squad office

6:22 pm on 3 May 2016
PNG Police Commissioner, Gary Baki.

PNG Police Commissioner, Gary Baki. Photo: EMTV

Papua New Guinea's Police Commissioner Gari Baki has been asked by the National Court this morning to reopen the fraud squad office.

Mr Baki has had the office of the National Fraud and Anti-Corruption Directorate locked for the past fortnight since he moved to suspend fraud detectives who have been probing a major fraud case which implicates the prime minister Peter O'Neill.

A Supreme Court ruling last month to allow the fraud squad's investigations into the fraud case to resume, following a series of legal challenges, paved the way for several high-profile arrests.

Within a few days, the fraud squad head Matthew Damaru, directed the arrests of the Attorney-General, the prime minister's lawyer, and a Supreme court judge alleged to have taken a bribe while deliberating on the validity of an arrest warrant for Peter O'Neill.

However following these arrests, and amid signs the squad appeared to be zeroing in on the prime minister, Commissioner Baki sought to suspend Mr Damaru and several colleagues for alleged breaches of police procedure and failing to report to him.

The local court subsequently issued a stay order on the suspension, however Mr Baki ordered the fraud office closed and locked Mr Damaru out.

A lawyer for Mr Damaru indicated that contempt proceedings would be filed against Mr Baki.

Matthew Damaru, PNG

Matthew Damaru Photo: Supplied

Police Commissioner ordered to abide by court ruling

Gary Baki today appeared before Deputy Chief Justice Sir Gibbs Salika who gave him the discretion to lift his earlier directions to close the fraud office.

Sir Gibbs told Baki that the office must remain open so the public can make reports and officers can perform their constitutional functions.

"I am asking you to reopen the office so work can progress. The office does not belong to you or me or anyone else," Sir Gibbs told Commissioner Baki in a packed courtroom.

PNG Loop reports the judge saying that if Commissioner Baki didn't lift the closure on the fraud squad's office, he would be called back to court and issued orders to do so.

The court has conveyed to the police commissioner that his move to block the fraud squad work has had a range of consequences, including delaying the trial of the Bogia MP John Hickey on alleged misuse of public funds.

Commissioner Baki told the court he issued directions for the closure of the fraud office as he saw there had been no accountability from the officers there.

He accused at least one fraud squad officer of failing to give the Commissioner's office access to files over an arrest despite being directed to do so.

"Had he done so I wouldn't have to stand in court this morning," Mr Baki told the court.