30 Oct 2013

More arrests to come in PNG's fraud probe as spotlight turns to Government

5:40 pm on 30 October 2013

Police in Papua New Guinea say there are more arrests to come as part of the operation Task Force Sweep.

The high-profile lawyer Paul Paraka was arrested last week after months of attempts to block police efforts in the courts.

The Director of the National Fraud and Anti-Corruption Directorate, Superintendent Matthew Damaru, says two other lawyers were arrested, and Government workers are next.

He spoke to Alex Perrottet.

MATTHEW DAMARU: The NEC has established the sweep to investigate high profile corruption cases and they're doing a good job. My investigators and detectives are attached to the Task Force Sweep and they've been doing a good job.

ALEX PERROTTET: Now, this is a huge step here, because there's accusations that some massive payments, we're talking tens of millions of kina, even up to 100 million kina over the last seven years, and of course we must state very clearly that these are still just allegations, but to have an arrest of someone so high-profile is surely an amazing step forward in terms of unearthing corruption, but also doing something about it.

MD: Yes, I think so, I think for a long time there's an attitude, that people say, in Government circles, they know what's going on but they're not prepared to report that, saying it's the work of the police to find out that and investigate. This is a breakthrough that we've been able to put the information together and people need to work together. And I think this is the first time that we have been able to deal with corruption of a very high-profile person. And I think I should say that this is a big breakthrough and I think the rest will follow suit.

AP: Do you predict, as well, that there will be other arrests? This is not just a one-person show, this is a web of deceit here. Do you predict that there'll be government people, there'll be parliamentarians, there's also media organisations, all sorts of organisations involved. Can we expect a lot more arrests in this particular case?

MD: Yes, we've arrested two others, two lawyers, and as Paraka was being interrogated in Port Moresby, simultaneously there were two others being interrogated in Mt Hagen in the Western Highlands province. This is a case of money laundering where funds earmarked for Paraka Lawyers were channelled through these other law firms and forwarding their funds to Paul Paraka and keeping a share, a commission for themselves.

AP: Will we find out who in the government has been complicit in these payments?

MD: Yes, we have information that people in the Government are involved and in some of the agencies in the private sector as well. We will investigate and we will turn every stone and those who were involved we will prosecute as well.

AP: Are we talking public servants? Are we talking heads of departments or parliamentarians? Do you know yet who you're aiming for?

MD: Since it's still under investigation I won't say who they are but they are people we know of in the Government circles.

AP: This is a high-profile lawyer. How high-profile are your other suspects?

MD: Well they'll be people of high standing, with responsibility in the Government, that we are looking at.